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France: Weekly Valeurs Actuelles loses gag lawsuit against the French press council

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The Court of First Instance yesterday dismissed Valeurs actuelles' case and ruled in favour of the Council for Journalistic Ethics and Mediation (CDJM). The CDJM welcomed a "major success" for freedom of expression and the right of every citizen to quality information in France.

The facts

Following a complaint from a reader, shocked by an article in Valeurs actuelles in which MP Danièle Obono was depicted as a slave, chained, with an iron around her neck, the CDJM ruled that this article did not comply with journalistic ethics.

The weekly, which was also under preliminary investigation by the Paris prosecutor's office for "racist insults" and a complaint filed by MP Danièle Obono, considered that the CDJM's opinion interfered with a criminal procedure.

French weekly Valeurs actuelles, accompanied in this procedure by the Union of magazine publishers (SEPM), had summoned the CDJM in summary proceedings in order to censor its statement and to demand damages on the grounds that one of the CDJM's statements had "undermined the presumption of innocence" of its publication director.

Valeurs actuelles was dismissed and ordered to pay 2,000 euros to the CDJM. The court eventually considered that the CDJM's opinion was solely based on journalistic ethics and did not pronounce itself on a criminal procedure.

This decision clearly states the difference between what is journalistic ethics and what is criminal law.

The CDJM, a tripartite association composed of journalists, publishers and press agencies and representatives of the public, is strengthened in its role of dialogue and reflection on issues of journalistic ethics.

Since its creation in December 2019, the CDJM has responded to a public expectation and is convinced that it can contribute to restoring trust between the media, journalists and citizens.