The office building of the French newspaper Le Poher. On February 14, 2023, CPJ called on French authorities to swiftly investigate the death threats received by journalist Erwan Chartier and the editorial staff of Le Poher. (Photo Credit: Le Poher)

French journalist Erwan Chartier, Le Poher staff receive death threats

Berlin, February 14, 2023 — French authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate the death threats received by journalist Erwan Chartier and the editorial staff of the Le Poher newspaper and ensure their safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On January 31, an unidentified person sent an email to Chartier containing racial slurs and explicit threats of death and physical violence directed to him and the staff of the privately owned weekly newspaper Le Poher, where Chartier works as editor-in-chief, according to news reports, a report by the outlet, and Chartier, who spoke to CPJ by phone.

On February 9, two days after the newspaper published its report about the threats, an unidentified man called the newspaper’s reception desk to inquire about Chartier’s whereabouts; when the receptionist asked why he would like to speak to him, the man said he would like to “shoot a bullet in his head” and hung up, Chartier told CPJ.

Chartier told CPJ that he believes the threats are connected to the newspaper’s reporting on a project to welcome migrants to Callac, a town near the western commune of Carhaix where the newspaper is based, which was abandoned in January following pressure from right-wing activists.

“French authorities must thoroughly investigate the anonymous death threats sent to journalist Erwan Chartier and the editorial team of the newspaper Le Poher and hold the perpetrators to account,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Journalists like Chartier and his team must be allowed to cover controversial local issues without fear. Authorities must take these threats seriously and ensure Chartier and his team’s safety.” 

The day before the first threat was received, Chartier’s lawyer notified far-right news website Résistance Républicaine that the journalist had initiated a civil defamation lawsuit against the outlet and one of its authors, Bernard Germain, Chartier told CPJ. He said the suit stemmed from an October 31, 2022, article criticizing Le Poher’s coverage of the migrant project in Callac, which CPJ reviewed, in which Germain called the paper a “miserable rag” of the “extreme left.”

Although he did not mention Chartier by name, Germain called the author of Le Poher’s coverage of the project a “pathetic little collaborator” who supports the “invaders.” Germain was also a local candidate of the French far-right Reconquête party for the 2022 parliamentary elections but did not win a seat, according to reports.

On January 31, 2023, local police began a criminal investigation, conducted a risk assessment, and subsequently increased surveillance of the neighborhood of the newspaper’s office, Chartier said. 

In an editorial on February 7, Chartier wrote that they alerted the authorities because “it is unacceptable to see journalists insulted or threatened,” and he and his team would like to continue their work “without pressure of any kind.”

CPJ’s emails to the public prosecutor’s office in Brest in charge of the investigation, Résistance Républicaine, and Germain through the press department of the Reconquête party did not receive any replies.