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Op-ed – We won’t be silenced by Bolloré gag suits!
Author: 50 grass-roots collectives, journalists, media outlets and NGOs, Published on: 25 January 2018
Today, a court in Paris will begin hearing the defamation suit that the Luxembourg-based holding company Socfin and its Cameroonian subsidiary Socapalm have brought against three French media outlets (Mediapart, L’Obs and Le Point) and two NGOs (Sherpa and ReAct) over articles about protests by rural residents and farmers who live near plantations run by these two companies in West Africa.
The two companies are closely linked to the French conglomerate Bolloré...
...Since 2009, more than 20 defamation suits have been brought in France – or in other countries in order to circumvent France’s 1881 press freedom law – by the Bolloré group or Socfin in response to articles, TV reports, NGO reports and even a book... More than 40 reporters, photographers, media lawyers, NGO representatives and media CEOs have been involved.
...[W]e regard these legal actions as “gag suits” – lawsuits designed to suppress criticism...They constitute direct attacks on the public interest and freedom of expression, and they target local communities, journalists, grass-roots groups, lawyers and whistlelowers – all the links in the chain for defending rights.
...France needs legislative amendments akin to those adopted in Quebec province and in certain US and Australian states that strengthen freedom of expression and provide better protection for the targets of gag suits.
[Also refers to Socapalm]