“Mediapart journalists should be decapitated.” “They deserve a good fascist walloping.” “There are some people at Mediapart who should start to work out that this radicalness from the right will eventually get them; you don't collaborate with impunity.” These comments, which are in videos posted on YouTube channels or in their comments, are not even the worst things you hear from the mouths of some far-right militants who specialise in spreading hatred online.
In a letter dated November 24th 2021 and sent to Laure Beccuau, the state prosecutor in Paris, our lawyers Olivia Levy and Emmanuel Tordjman flagged eight videos whose comments and style “put in danger the physical security of Mediapart's journalists”. Three of our colleagues are targeted, threatened and defamed in particular: Lucie Delaporte, a journalist in the politics section; Mathieu Magnaudeix, who co-presents our daily programme 'À l’air libre'; and Usul, a videomaker who has produced a video-column for us since 2016.
“The widespread publication of these videos amounting to hundreds of thousands of views, and even more than a million for some of them, create a real risk of harm to the safety of Lucie Delaporte, Mathieu Magnaudeix and Usul, and more generally of every employee and/or member of Mediapart,” wrote lawyers Olivia Levy and Emmanuel Tordjman. “The seriousness of the facts and the risks arising from them justify investigations being carried out to identify the authors of and/or the accomplices to the offences complained of in the current report, so that this can swiftly be brought to an end.”
The comments cited in this report to the authorities feature the following offences:
- Incitement, without it being acted upon, to commit physical harm and sexual assaults, as defined under volume II of the French criminal code, as provided for and prohibited under article 24 paragraph 1-1 of the law of July 29th 1881 on Freedom of the Press;
- Defamation of a person or a group of persons on the basis of their sex, their sexual orientation, gender identity or their disability, as provided for and prohibited under articles 29 paragraph 1 and 32 paragraph 3 of the law of July 29th 1881;
- Incitement of hatred or violence against a person or group of persons because of their sex, their sexual orientation or gender identity, as provided for and prohibited under article 24 paragraph 8 of the law of July 29th 1881;
- Mental harassment as provided for and prohibited under article 222-33-2-2 of the criminal code.
Apart from explicit calls to physically attack our three colleagues, these eight videos contain persistent and repeated targeted attacks of unprecedented violence against our colleague Lucie Delaporte which defame her by dint of her sex and cause damage to her reputation and esteem. This is obviously not by chance, as she has doggedly followed the activities of the far right and investigated the “YouTubers of hate” and their “casual neo-fascism” (see that story here and all her articles here). Meanwhile, in one of his videos on Mediapart Usul had looked at the racist and supremacist propagators of this online hatred (see here).
In one of the videos concerning Lucie Delaporte there is reference to this “white woman of the Left” and questions about how she would “align herself ideologically” if the “Gare du Nord suddenly dropped into her living room” [editor's note, a reference to the Paris railway station noted for its ethnic diversity]. One of the people in the video goes further and says in reference to Mediapart: “That's what makes me want to smash them.”
The latest video about our colleague, broadcast online on October 21st on the channel of a YouTuber who is a former member of a neo-Nazi group, denigrates her as a woman, and targets her with repeated incitements to rape. One of those taking part in the conversations, a former member of the Front National – the party now known as Rassemblement National – suggests to laughter from his companions that they create a kitty to fund the “rape” of our colleague, “at least thirty thousand francs to screw her”. On several occasions they make reference to firearms and talk about giving journalists “authentic fractures of the snout, that’s going to seem bizarre for them ”.
As for Mathieu Magnaudeix, his face is singled out and isolated on an old photograph of the Mediapart editorial team accompanied by these comments: “Google Mediapart and you see a cuck with legs crossed and a little scarf on the front row. You don't know who's a man and who's a woman.” In the language of these new fascists Mediapart is called 'Mediacuck', from the expression 'cuckservative' which describes people who are supposedly subservient towards women and minorities.
Initially, Mediapart's lawyers served final notice on the publishers and hosts – in this case YouTube which belongs to Google – to take down these videos. Yet out of a total of eight, only one was removed. Given that the offences involved were continuing with impunity, Mediapart thus decided to flag this formally to the prosecution service, after getting the content of the videos officially evidenced by a court bailiff. That decision was certainly a legal one – suing for defamation would not have put an end to the threats and the violence and it would only have come to court after a long period – but it is also a political one too. We think it is the responsibility of the public authorities to protect the profession of journalism and freedom of the press.
Despite a joint appeal by 39 journalist organisations on November 17th 2021, followed by the firm stance adopted by the minister of culture Roselyne Bachelot, which was then rounded off by a Mediapart investigation into the political violence faced by journalists reporting on the far right, there has so far been no position, directive or initiative adopted by the Ministry of Justice. This is despite that fact that, via the state prosecutors, the government in France is in charge of criminal law policy.
Our referral is thus an appeal to the state prosecutor for the legal system to fulfil its responsibilities by undertaking the necessary investigations and proceedings.
“Over and above our clients' interests it is the work of journalists that's been targeted, in other words one of the key pillars of the rule of law,” wrote lawyers Olivia Levy and Emmanuel Tordjman in their letter to the prosecutor. “It is thus down to the prosecution, which is in charge of defending the general interest, to look into these facts, the object of the current report, so that the authors of and accomplices to these serious offences are identified and that it is made clear that free expression, from whatever source, cannot have the effect of harming the freedom to inform the public about issues in the general interest.”
Duly registered by the prosecution in Paris, our alert was sent to to the police unit that combats online hate crimes, the Pôle National de Lutte contre la Haine en Ligne. We are keen to know what happens next in the case. While we wait, we reiterate all our solidarity with colleagues Mathieu Magnaudeix and Usul and especially our colleague Lucie Delaporte, for whom these violent attacks, through intimidation and threats, make the necessary reporting on the far right even more difficult.
Read Mediapart's report about the far right's targeting of journalists here.