Critics say the gag order against Mediapart violates French press law and the European Convention on Human Rights.
French media outlets and press freedom advocates have expressed outrage at a French court decision to block publication of an investigation into Gaël Perdriau, the mayor of Saint-Etienne, by the Mediapart online newspaper.
The gag order is “an unprecedented attack against freedom of the press in France”, Edvi Planel, co-founder and president of Mediapart, wrote,
The resolution signed on Friday “orders public interest investigations not to be published at the express request of the personality concerned”, he said.
The portal had planned to release a report about 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 Gautieri, against Gilles Artigues, first deputy of Saint-Étienne and rival for mayor in the city.
If the new report is published, it is likely to take a further blow to Perdriau’s reputation.
“This decision is extremely serious,” Christophe Bigot, a lawyer specializing in press law for Le Monde, told the 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 hear its case for publication, EURACTIV reports.
Bigot told EURACTIV that the clause on freedom of the press in the European Convention on Human Rights underlines the critical importance of the principle of proportionality, which, he said, can only be assessed when considering the information that is being published.
The National Union of Journalists wrote in a press release that censoring information of general interest, even if it could harm the subject’s reputation, is a violation and “a serious violation of the freedom to inform”.
Reporters Without Borders of the Year Annual Press Freedom Index France was ranked 26th out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom, far behind other EU countries such as Lithuania, Ireland, Portugal and Germany.
Mediapart said at a press conference on Tuesday that its application to withdraw the court order would be considered on Friday.