A magistrate orders the Mediapart investigation to be censored in advance
friday On November 18, the bailiff came to the headquarters of “Mediapart” and delivered to us the unique court document from the memory of the journalist and lawyer.
It orders us not to publish a public interest investigation at the express request of the person concerned without asking for a moment’s argument from Mediapart. Mediapart was not informed about this procedure and the decision was taken by the judge without our newspaper being able to defend its work and rights.
Thus, disregarding the principle of contention, this original censorship order is an arbitrary act, using a procedure totally foreign to the law to violate the fundamental freedom regulated by the law of July 29, 1881, by diverting it.
On the same November 18, this order issued by the acting magistrate Violette Baty, given by the president of the Paris Court of Justice, Stephane Noel, on the same day, the lawyer Gael Perdriau, M. .e Christopher Ingrain.
He calls us “Failure to publish with a fine of 10,000 euros per published extract” New revelations about the political practices of the mayor of Saint-Étienne, especially based on the same records that allowed to reveal the sex tape blackmail scandal of which he was the victim of the first centrist deputy Gilles Artigues.
Previous investigations by Mediapart, which covered the case by Antton Rouget, have not been subject to any legal challenges. In Saint-Étienne, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, they caused a stir within the Les Republicains (LR) party and government, and were widely covered in the national media.
They led to the resignation of the municipal assistant for education and the dismissal of the director of the office of the mayor of Saint-Étienne, Gael Perdriau, who, for his part, announced that he was withdrawing from his representative functions (without resigning). in the metropolis he presides over.
Above all, they led the opening of a judicial investigation entrusted to two investigating judges of the Lyon public prosecutor’s office for “interference with privacy, aggravated blackmail, embezzlement of public property by a person responsible for a public function, breach of trust and concealment”. crimes”. Legal investigations are ongoing after the first police raid in mid-September, including Gael Perdriau.
Continuing his investigation, Antton Rouge discovered new facts that once again called into question the practices of the mayor of Saint-Étienne, especially the use of rumors as a political tool. However, this time their victim is Laurent Wauquiez, a prominent figure on the right, president of the LR of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, whose presidential ambitions are notorious.
As before, these revelations are mainly based on business conversations in the town hall of Saint-Étienne city hall, recorded by the victim of the sextape blackmail, his first deputy Gilles Artigues, in order to protect themselves. was handed over to justice by the last of them.
When we were informed of the censorship in advance, this study had not yet been published, even if we had fulfilled all our professional and legal obligations: public interest, its factual and material basis, respect for contradictions.
Several personalities who were concerned about these new revelations, led by Laurent Wauquiez, were approached and expressed their reactions. Gaël Perdriau, who contacted Antton Rouget earlier in the week to respond to these new facts, for his part requested an extension until 1pm on Friday 18 November, which was happily granted.
Three hours after receiving his detailed responses by email, at 12:57 a.m., a bailiff arrived to say that the president of the Paris court had ordered him not to publish anything by the same Gael Perdriau. The mayor of Saint-Étienne therefore knows very well what information he does not want published.
This initial censorship, albeit not hastily, comes from a decision made in the privacy of an exchange between just two people: the plaintiff’s lawyer and the presiding judge, without public hearings or contentious debate. In its motivation, Gael Perdriau’s claim thus granted falsely intrudes on privacy that we would demonstrate in open hearings as not existing at all.
At the beginning of the conflict, at the end of August, the mayor of Saint-Étienne already accused us – this time without going to court – of committing a crime. Opening of ” [la] Private life “ Deputy Gilles Artigues, victim of intimate video blackmail. We then responded that if there was any violation of Mr. Artigues’ privacy in this story, it was not our fault, but the practices in place at City Hall.
Even better, Gaël Perdriau had not started any procedure when we discovered in our previous articles the extracts from the notes that we could not publish now, and thus recognized the general interest nature of our information. But the process, its circumstances and context were the same and confirmed the public interest of this information.
This operative procedure is based on two articles of the Code of Civil Procedure: Article 493, which applies to all jurisdictions “I“the decision on the request is a temporary decision issued without a dispute in cases where the applicant is right not to complain to the other party”. ; Article 875 below “Special Provisions for Economic Court” : ” The chairman may order that all urgent measures be taken on the basis of a petition within the powers of the court, and that they should not be taken in conflict with each other. »
As far as we know, this exceptional tool has never been used in press work. The mere fact that one of the two statutes referred to is within the jurisdiction of the commercial courts takes the abuse of this procedure to the extreme. In fact, the instruction not to publish in Mediapart was addressed to the general manager of our company, not to the publication director, who is the sole legal entity responsible for the content of the newspaper.
Completely outside of press law, the chosen exceptional procedure is designed to create, according to case law “surprise effect” in this case, it consists in breaking the publication of information on the condition that the newspaper cannot defend the general interests justifying its publication before independent judges.
At the request of a politician who is the protagonist of a case subject to public debate and criminal investigation, where the methods used to destabilize a political opponent are at the center of legal debate, the president of the Paris court therefore decided, in the solitude of his office, to restore the Old Regime’s weapon against press freedom: the previous censorship.
Except in periods of democratic eclipse, this has not been seen since the law of July 29, 1881, which still regulates freedom of information and expression in France.
By announcing this from his first article “the printing house and bookstore are free” without adding any limitation, in other words, by one of his legislators at that time “Press and speech are free”it meant that the fundamental right to impart information and ideas could not be interfered with a priori.
Putting an end to previous permits, censorship, and bailouts—weapons used by all regimes to curb press freedom—the 1881 law thus repealed 325 of the previous 42 press laws in one fell swoop and pardoned all punishments without exception. pronounced by their names.
Its politically liberal provisions enabled the progressive establishment of a deeply democratic jurisprudence, with specialized courts and magistracies protecting the freedom of citizens, not journalists, but the right to know anything of public interest.
The spirit which animates it is that, however uneasy they may be, it cannot be violated by forbidding truths which contribute to general discussion to the light of day. As for any abuses committed by the press in the exercise of this freedom, they can only be sanctioneda posterioriby independent judges, publicly and we repeat, after conflicting discussions.
It is this important 141-year-old democratic conquest that is being stung by the Mediapart investigation’s pre-censorship with an order issued on demand. Until it is overturned, this act of liberticide prevents our readers and beyond, public opinion as a whole from learning new facts in a major political scandal on a national scale.
This previous censorship is even more disturbing, coming a few weeks after a similar decision by the commercial court of Nanterre on October 6 on the grounds of business secrecy: it was seized by the Altice group and its president, Patrick Drahi, who did not hesitate. Ban Reflets.info from publishing “new information”. The investigative site has applied.
Obviously we asked our lawyer.e Emmanuel Tordjman of the Seattle firm, in order to implement all possible legal means to put an end to this previous censorship, in other words, this democratic disorder that seriously violates fundamental freedom, as soon as possible, “One of the most precious human rights”, according to Article 11 of the Declaration of Human and Civil Rights. And finally so that you can discover the new revelations of Antton Rouget in the case of Saint-Étienne.