11 Jun 2019 Lvl. 2
Resolved
Alert created on: 27 Jul 2016 n° 82/2016 France

France 2 TV channel sued in a Commercial Court by the Bolloré Group

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ Index
Partner EFJ/IFJ Index
On 22 July 2016, the Bolloré Group announced that it would seek a settlement of 50 million euros in damages from France 2 before the Paris Commercial Court as a result of the rebroadcasting on 21 July of the programme “Complément d'enquête” (Further investigation) that covered Vincent Bolloré and the group's activities in Africa. Broadcast for the first time on 7 April, the TV investigative report had displeased the businessman who accused France 2 of fabricating false testimonies. Particularly contentious is the part of the investigation filmed in Cameroon, on a palm oil plantation. In this part, an employee, described as a miner, denounces his working conditions. In a statement, the Group declared that the programme was "damaging to its commercial interests" and that the broadcasting of the TV investigative report was characteristic of " a demonstrated willingness to harm." The amount of damages sought and the recourse to a the Commercial Court – as opposed to a court of civil justice - are previously unseen. These litigation lawsuits could be aiming to serve as a deterrent to journalists and the media to dissuade them from investigating the activities of Vincent Bolloré and the Group Bolloré.
Resolved
11 Jun 2019: On 11 June 2019, given the outcome of the legal proceedings in France, the partner organisations to the Platform declared this case to be ‘resolved’, concluding that it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.
Updates
12 Apr 2019
On 9 April 2019, the Versailles Court of Appeal upheld the judgment of the Nanterre Criminal Court and dismissed the appeal by Vincent Bolloré, Bolloré SA and Bolloré Africa Logistics. It also discharged France Télévisions and Tristan Waleckx on the grounds of the "utmost seriousness", "lack of animosity" and "careful, objective and adversarial presentation" of the report.
28 Mar 2019
On 27 March 2019, the Paris Court of Appeal upheld the judgment of the Paris Commercial Court of 13 June 2018 and ordered Bolloré SA to pay France Télévisions €10,000 in damages for frivolous proceedings.
28 Jun 2018
On 13 June 2018, the Paris Commercial Court declared itself incompetent, on the ground that the exercise of the freedom of expression can be challenged only on the basis of civil law, before the civil justice, except denigration of products and services. None of the criticisms raised was related to the negative impact of the report on the products broadcast by Bolloré SA.
13 Jun 2018
On 6 June 2018, the Nanterre Criminal Court dismissed the complaint of Vincent Bolloré, Bolloré SA and Bolloré Africa Logistics, on the grounds that the incriminated news report was not defamatory. The Court released France Télévisions and the journalist Tristan Waleckx, dismissed the plaintiffs’ €450,000 damage claim, and sentenced each to pay 3,500 € to France 2 and Mr. Waleckx in litigation costs.
28 Apr 2018
On 24 April 2018, Vincent Bolloré, Gilles Alix, Chief Executive Officer of Bolloré SA and Jean-Philippe Dorent, Head of Havas International Cluster, were arrested, put in custody and under investigation by the Nanterre Financial Judges for bribery of a foreign public official, complicity in breach of trust, forgery and use of forgery, in an investigation into the conditions for awarding port concessions of Conakry (Guinea) and Lome (Togo) to Bolloré Africa Logistics. Havas, a subsidiary of Bolloré SA, is suspected of having under-invoiced political advisory services to successful candidates in the elections to obtain, in return, the management of port concessions by Bolloré Africa Logistics.
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