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Key Developments

» New government promises hands-off policy in public broadcasting.

» Court rulings favor press in France 3 video case, Bettencourt affair.

After five years of tension between the media and Élysée Palace under Nicolas Sarkozy, a new Socialist government sought to cool down the atmosphere. President François Hollande promised to review his predecessor’s policies on public broadcasting and to give up the presidential privilege of directly appointing its executives. The judiciary brought good news for the press: A judge dismissed a criminal case against Augustin Scalbert, a Rue89 journalist indicted in June 2010 on charges of “stealing and keeping” a video that showed Sarkozy scolding France 3 journalists. And prosecutor Philippe Courroye was indicted on charges of unlawfully trying to identify the sources used by Le Monde journalists investigating the Bettencourt affair, the questionable funding of Sarkozy’s party by billionaire Liliane Bettencourt. But a number of media outlets faced new lawsuits claiming defamation or insult (Mediapart, Libération), and endangerment of life or incitement to hatred (Charlie Hebdo). Several French journalists were also victims of violence: Gilles Jacquier and Rémi Ochlik were killed and Edith Bouvier was wounded in Syria, while Roméo Langlois was abducted in Colombia.

  • 5

    Major legal attacks
  • 2

    Killed in Syria
  • 6th

    Leading exile destination
  • 35%

    Broadband penetration

Incensed by Libération’s front page with his photo and the headline “Get lost, rich jerk” in reference to his application for Belgian citizenship, billionaire Bernard Arnault sued the center-left daily for “public insult.” The complaint, filed in September, was pending in late year.

Other legal attacks on French media:

April 30:

Sarkozy announces he is suing the left-wing news website Mediapart after it published a document alleging that former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi had sought to fund the president’s 2007 election campaign. On May 2, Mediapart countersues Sarkozy for “calumnious denunciation.”

June 7:

The center-right government of Marseilles orders the withdrawal of all posters advertising the local edition of the left-leaning newsweekly Le Nouvel Observateur. The poster, which showed a local Socialist candidate, was deemed to be “unfair electoral propaganda.”

July 9:

Police demand Elephant & Cie identify the source who leaked recorded phone exchanges between killer Mohamed Merah and an elite anti-terror squad. The conversations occurred before a March police assault on Merah’s hideout in Toulouse.

September 22:

Christine Boutin, president of the center-right Parti Chrétien-Démocrate, files a complaint against Charlie Hebdo alleging “endangerment of life” for its publication of controversial caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Two Islamic organizations later file complaints alleging incitement to hatred.


Two French journalists were killed in Syria in 2012. A mortar killed Gilles Jacquier, a reporter with public broadcaster France 2, as he was covering a pro-government demonstration in Homs in January. Government shelling killed photojournalist Rémi Ochlik and U.S.-born reporter Marie Colvin in February in the rebel-held neighborhood of Baba Amr in Homs.

Other French journalists and media outlets under fire in 2012:

September 17:

Shots are fired at the offices of the daily Corse Matin in Bastia, the second-largest city of Corsica, a French region affected by violent nationalism and gangsterism.

April 28:

Roméo Langlois, a France 24 correspondent in Colombia, is taken hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. He is released on May 30.

February 22:

Le Figaro journalist Edith Bouvier is seriously wounded in Homs in the same attack that killed Ochlik and Colvin. She is transported home on March 2.

February 15:

Suspected supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party storm the Pantin offices of the Turkish newspaper Zaman France, northeast of Paris, threatening employees, breaking windows, and damaging furniture and computers.

France hosts at least 17 exiled journalists, according to CPJ research, making it one of the world’s leading resettlement locations.

Top countries to which they flee, 2007-12:


According to European Commission statistics, France was ranked third in Europe in 2012 for fixed broadband penetration.

Europe’s broadband leaders, according to the European Commission:

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Slideshow: Year in Photos

Slideshow: Year in Photos

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