The gag order against Mediapart violates French press law and the European Convention on Human Rights, critics say.
French media and press freedom advocates have expressed outrage at a decision by the French court to halt the publication of an investigation by the online newspaper Mediapart into the mayor of Saint-Etienne, Gaël Perdriau.
The gag order is “an unprecedented attack on press freedom in France,” said Mediapart co-founder and chairman Edwy Plenel. wrote.
The motion signed Friday “orders not to publish research of public interest at the express request of the person concerned,” he said.
The portal was planning to release a report on Perdriau, a member of former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative Republican party.
In September, Mediapart had already reported on an alleged sex tape blackmail scandal involving Perdriau and his chief of staff, Pierre Gauttieri, against the first deputy of Saint-Etienne and the mayor’s rival in the city, Gilles Artigues.
If published, the new report would likely do further damage to Perdriau’s reputation.
“This decision is extremely serious,” Christophe Bigot, a lawyer specializing in press law for Le Monde, told EURACTIV France publication. He said it violates French press law and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Following an urgent request from Perdriau’s lawyer, the court decided to censor the report without giving Medipart a chance to plead for publication, EURACTIV reported.
Bigot told EURACTIV that the section on freedom of the press in the European Convention on Human Rights underlines the crucial importance of the principle of proportionality, which he believes can only be assessed taking into account the information to be published.
Censoring information of public interest, even if it could damage the reputation of the person concerned, is a violation and “a serious infringement of the freedom of information”, writes the National Union of Journalists in a press release.
In this year’s Reporters Without Borders annual press freedom index, France ranked 26th out of 180 countries in terms of freedom of the press, far behind other EU countries such as Lithuania, Ireland, Portugal and Germany.
Mediapart said at a press conference on Tuesday that its request to withdraw the court order will be considered on Friday.