We will not be silenced by Bolloré's SLAPP lawsuits!
Civil society organisations, media outlets, journalists and NGOs | 25 January 2018

We will not be silenced by Bolloré's SLAPP lawsuits!
This Thursday 25 January, a lawsuit was opened against three newspapers (Mediapart, L’Obs and Le Point) and two NGOs (Sherpa and ReAct), who are accused of defamation by the Luxembourgian holding Socfin and its Cameroonian subsidiary Socapalm, for articles reporting on the mobilisation of villagers and farmers in West Africa who live near farms managed by these two companies. These companies have strong links to the Bolloré group, and Vincent Bolloré himself serves on their board of directors.
The lawsuit marks a new step in the judiciary proceedings launched by Bolloré and its partners against the media, non-governmental organisations and journalists who brought up what was going on behind the scenes regarding its economic and commercial activity in Africa, its links with the Luxembourgian holding Socfin, and the consequences of the large-scale land acquisitions.
Since 2009, no less than 20 defamation lawsuits have been launched by Bolloré or Socfin in France and elsewhere – circumventing the 1881 law on freedom of the press – against articles, audio-visual reports, reports by NGOs, and even a book. France Inter, France Culture, France Info, France 2, Bastamag, Libération, Mediapart, L’Obs, Le Point, Rue 89, Greenpeace, React, Sherpa… More than 40 journalists, lawyers, photographers, NGO leaders and media directors have been targeted by Bolloré and its partners (see the list below)!
In view of their scale, we estimate that the judicial proceedings are akin to “SLAPP” (Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation) lawsuits. It is starting to become the norm for large multinational companies to launch these types of proceedings. Apple, Areva, Vinci and Véolia have recently filed lawsuits against non-governmental organisations or whistle-blowers. By piling up lawsuits on an unprecedented scale – even if it means abandoning them along the way –, the Bolloré group creates an almost automatic method of reprisal whenever their African activities are publicly mentioned. These legal proceedings against journalists are just one of the many constraints placed upon press freedom, which have now become typical of the Bolloré group. In 2014, for example, its communications agency Havas cut 7 million euros’ worth of advertisements from the newspaper Le Monde following an enquiry into its activities in Côte d’Ivoire. Not to mention the deprogramming or censoring of several documentaries that Canal+ (Vivendi group) was due to broadcast.
These systematic legal proceedings aim to apply pressure, financially weaken, and isolate any journalist, whistle-blower or organisation that brings to light the dubious activities and practices of economic giants like the Bolloré group. Its aim? To dissuade people from investigating and to silence them, so its “commercial secrets”, if they have potentially harmful consequences, remain under wraps. Here, public interest and freedom of expression are directly under attack. Local communities, journalists, charities, lawyers, and whistle-blowers… these lawsuits are targeting all these links in the rights defenders chain.
We as collectives, journalists, media outlets, and NGOs express our support for the journalists and organisations who will appear in court on 25 and 26 January, and all those who are being targeted by these SLAPP lawsuits. Reforms should be proposed in France to imitate other countries such as Québec, and some states in the United States and Australia, which aim to strengthen freedom of expression and provide better protection for victims of SLAPP lawsuits. Spreading information is not a crime! We will not be silent!
The signatories: Jean-Pierre Canet (journalist), Maureen Grisot (journalist), Benoît Collombat (journalist, Radio France), Nadia Djabali (journalist), Samuel Forey (journalist, L'Ebdo), Simon Gouin (journalist, Bastamag), Elodie Guéguen (journalist, Radio France), Pierre Haski (journalist, Rue 89), Dan Israel (journalist, Mediapart), Erik Kervellec (managing editor, France Info), Julien Lusson (former managing editor, Bastamag), Jacques Monin (journalist, Radio France), Jean-Baptiste Naudet (journalist, L’Obs), Nicolas Poincaré (journalist, Europe 1), Martine Orange (journalist, Mediapart), Fanny Pigeaud (journalist), Isabelle Ricq (photographer), Jean-Baptiste Rivoire (journalist, Canal+), Agnès Rousseaux (journalist, Bastamag), Ivan du Roy (journalist, Bastamag), David Servenay (journalist), Nicolas Vescovacci (journalist), Tristan Waleckx (journalist, France 2)
Media outlets and organisations: ActionAid France, Attac France, Bastamag, Collectif « Informer n’est pas un délit », Collectif « On ne se taira pas », Collectif des associations citoyennes, Crid, France Libertés, GRAIN, Greenpeace France, Mediapart, Ritimo, Sherpa, Survie, ReAct, Reporters sans frontières, SDJ de France 2, SDJ de Mediapart, SDJ de Premières Lignes, SDJ de Radio France, SDJ de Telerama, SDJ de TV5Monde, "Sociétés des journalistes" of France 2, Mediapart, L’Obs, Premières Lignes, Radio France, Télérama, TV5Monde and La Vie, Union syndicale Solidaires.
Ongoing and upcoming lawsuits:
Previous lawsuits:
URL to Article: https://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/27803

Source: CSOs, media