Journalism on trial in absurd closing act of the Bettencourt saga

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This week, five journalists, including Mediapart editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel and Mediapart investigative reporter Fabrice Arfi, stand trial in Bordeaux on charges relating to the violation of personal privacy. The case centres on the publication by Mediapart in 2010 of extracts of secretly recorded conversations between L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and her entourage of advisors which revealed a catalogue of corruption and manipulation surrounding the ageing billionaire and which led to the convictions of eight people earlier this year. Here, Fabrice Arfi denounces a trial that flouts press freedom laws and threatens the fundamental 'right to know'.

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It is not individual journalists who are standing trial this week before a court in Bordeaux, but rather journalism itself – its democratic principle, its civic essence, its social justification. Three Mediapart journalists, including myself, and two of our colleagues from weekly French magazine Le Point, are to appear before the court between November 3rd and November 5th to answer charges of illegally handling information gained from “the invasion of personal privacy”.