The legal process that began on October 15th 2019 with the placing of Mediapart’s capital in the ring-fenced safekeeping of the Fonds pour une presse libre (the ‘Fund for a Free Press’) via the Société pour la protection de l’indépendance de Mediapart (the Company for the Protection of the Independence of Mediapart), was completed on December 17th 2020. Meticulously organised by our general manager and Mediapart co-founder, Marie-Hélène Smiéjan, a marathon of general meetings and supervisory board meetings were held by videoconference (due to the current virus epidemic).
At the start of the summer of 2019, Mediapart announced the invention of an unprecedented and unique mechanism to allow the irreversible economic independence of our company and its online publication (see our article on this from July 2nd 2019). From now on, the Fonds pour une presse libre (FPL), an endowment fund which is a not-for-profit structure, owns all of our company’s capital via the Société pour la protection de l’indépendance de Mediapart (SPIM). In other words, Mediapart no longer has any shareholders in the literal sense of the word, and its capital is henceforth inaccessible, inviolable, and cannot be subjected to speculation (see our announcement dated October 15th 2019).
This innovation has fuelled useful debate within other editorial teams on the subject of their own economic independence, prompting the shareholders of French daily Libération (the Altice telecom group, parent company of SFR, owned by Patrick Drahi) and those of French daily Le Monde (principally Xavier Niel, founder of internet service provider Free) to declare that they wished to draw inspiration from it. However, none of these initiatives has either the ambition nor the coherence that is behind the creation of the FPL.
The Fonds pour une presse libre fulfils a mission of public interest at the service of the freedom of the press, of which the safekeeping of Mediapart’s capital is but one aspect. Thanks to the donations that it receives and the sums that Mediapart provides it, the FPL assists independent and innovating media in order to promote an ecosystem of news and information that is free from the grip of private interests. Furthermore, the governance of the FPL is totally transparent and very clearly disassociated from the management of Mediapart, as detailed on the FPL website (available in English here) where its statutes (articles) are also presented (in French, here). Their meticulousness ensures a balance of powers and countervailing powers that prevent any form of denaturizing or misuse of the purpose and aims of the FPL.
Mobilising the administrators of the FPL, of the SPIM and of the Association pour le droit de savoir (the ‘Association for the Right to Know’, or ADS, which provides the ethical guarantees of the whole of the structure), the general meetings and supervisory board meetings that were held on the evening of December 17th were called with the aim of placing the final brick in this new legal edifice, with the adoption of the new statutes (articles) of the Société Éditrice de Mediapart (SEDM) – the Mediapart publishing company. These can be consulted online (in French), legally certified as a true copy by electronic signature (and thus somewhat trembling!): Mediapart’s new statutes (pdf, 525.2 kB).
Following this, Mediapart’s new supervisory board was established, in the presence of Julie Sockeel and Fabien Escalona, the two representatives from our Social and Economic Committee (CSE) who are delegates to the board. It was not without emotion that this moment marked a new stage in the baton change between the founders of Mediapart and its staff.
Two of the four founders, François Bonnet and Laurent Mauduit, who have been members of the supervisory board since its beginning, handed over their seats on the board to two other journalists, Carine Fouteau, who is Mediapart’s co-editor, and Fabrice Arfi, who is joint head of our “Investigations” unit. Happily for our readers, François and Laurent are not stepping down from their journalistic activities, both remaining employees of Mediapart in which they will continue to invest themselves with all the same energy and freedom as ever, and continuing to be part of our management committee.
On top of the four members of the supervisory board who come from within Mediapart (Carine and Fabrice, our general manager Marie-Hélène, and myself), there are three independent members. One of them is chosen by us, and the two others are proposed by the SPIM.
The independent administrator we chose is Sébastien Sassolas, general manager of Odyssée Venture which has supported and accompanied us since 2009. The two administrators proposed by the SPIM, whose choice was submitted to the other members of the supervisory board and which was accepted, are James Sicard, chairman of Doxa (whose founder Thierry Wilhelm supported and accompanied the creation of Mediapart), and Jean-René Boidron, chairman of Kameleoon, a company specialised in digital marketing tools.
Thus, the seven members of the new Mediapart supervisory board are: Fabrice Arfi, Jean-René Boidron, Carine Fouteau, Edwy Plenel (chairman), Sébastien Sassolas, James Sicard, and Marie-Hélène Smiéjan. All the mandates are for one year, and are renewable. During its first meeting, the board approved Mediapart’s 2021 budget, and it will meet again in February when Mediapart’s 2020 accounts and results will be submitted to it for approval. Just as it does every year, Mediapart will make public all these figures, accounts and results in March, shortly before what will be the 13th anniversary of its launch on March 16th 2008.
The dry facts of all of this cannot hide the emotion felt by all of us in the writing of a new page of the history of Mediapart, doggedly pursuing the cause of a freedom that is as fragile as it is inestimable, that of the right to know and the right to say. Words are often too poor to describe the simple joy created by a wonderful collective adventure, one which is honourable and worthy, proud and daring. Our thanks go to you who read us and support us through your subscription, for having allowed this adventure to exist and for helping us to continue, develop and reinforce it.
As a testing year amid a depressing period comes to a close, all the team at Mediapart wish that you are able to make the most of this end-of-year season, to regather strength in order to meet the numerous challenges that await us. Take good care of yourself and those close to you.
> On December 2nd, Mediapart organised a digital “open doors” programme presenting our work and activity, and all the videos from this can be found here. One of them was on the subject of the almost 13 years of Mediapart’s independence (below, in French):