butler tapes

ECHR ruling on Bettencourt tapes: a defeat for the freedom of information


The European Court of Human Rights has found that the French state did not violate the principle of freedom of expression by imposing on Mediapart the censorship, in 2013, of 70 articles which revealed the vast criminal scandal of the so-called “Bettencourt affair”, based on tape recordings made by billionaire Liliane Bettencourt’s major-domo. Fabrice Arfi details the case.  

Defending the indefensible: the French state's justification of press censorship in the Bettencourt affair

France — Analysis

In July 2013, Mediapart was ordered by a French court to remove all its published articles that cited secret tape recordings made by the butler of Liliane Bettencourt which provided evidence of how the late heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics giant, suffering from dementia, was despoiled of part of her wealth by her close entourage. The tapes were at the centre of what became known as the Bettencourt affair and led to the convictions of several of those involved in the scam. Yet the censorship of the contents of the recordings remains, and Mediapart has challenged the ruling before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Mediapart publishing editor Edwy Plenel analyses here the French state’s submission to the ECHR in defence of the censorship, and highlights its absurd and contradictory attempt to justify the violation of the right to know.

Bettencourt 'butler tapes' ruling strikes victory for press freedom and right to know


In a landmark ruling on Tuesday, five journalists from Mediapart and French weekly news magazine Le Point, together with the former butler of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, were cleared of invasion of privacy charges relating to the publication of the contents of secretly-recorded conversations between the billionaire and her close entourage of legal and financial advisors. The publication of the contents of the tapes, which lifted the lid on a web of corruption and manipulation, contributed to “debates of public and societal interest” and “without entering into elements of private life and family conflicts”, concluded the magistrates in Bordeaux following the trial of the six defendants last November. The full text of their ruling is presented in this report by Mediapart legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan.

The mad week that was: from the 'Butler tapes' to Omar Raddad

France — Chronicle

Last week, journalists from Mediapart and weekly news magazine Le Point stood trial on ‘invasion of privacy’ charges for having published secretly-recorded conversations that revealed corruption and profiteering by the entourage of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. The prosecution has demanded they receive symbolic fines, and a verdict will be delivered in January. Meanwhile, the tax administration demanded the online press make backpayments for VAT rates that no longer apply. The week was capped by developments in a long-running murder case where the possible proof of a shameful miscarriage of justice remains buried by inertia. Hubert Huertas pulls on a common thread linking all three events.

Mediapart journalists to stand trial for revealing what the butler heard


The publication by Mediapart of carefully selected contents of secretly taped conversations between L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and her close circle of financial and legal advisors led to a major political scandal and a judicial investigation in which former president Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under investigation for taking advantage of the billionaire’s frail mental health. Mediapart published only what it considered to be in the public interest, exposing evidence of political corruption, money laundering and interference by the executive powers in the proper workings of the judicial system. But now magistrates have sent for trial journalists from Mediapart and French weekly magazine Le Point on charges of breaching personal privacy laws by revealing the recordings, which were made by Bettencourt's butler. Michel Deléan reports.

The tentacular Bettencourt affair, from high-society feud to affair of state


The Bettencourt affair has reached an unprecedented scope among the many scandals that have rocked France in recent decades. As a judicial ruling ordering the censorship of Mediapart’s reporting of the scandal kicks in this Monday evening, Michel Deléan dresses a summary of the  judicial investigations into the affair which, over the past three years, have exposed a bed of political corruption and influence peddling, a record back payment in taxes on assets secretly stashed abroad, not to mention the outrageous antics of a high-society cabal and the sordid exploitation of one of Europe’s wealthiest individuals.

Mediapart launches appeal against Bettencourt privacy censorship


Forty media organizations, trade unions and civil liberties groups have come together to launch an appeal against the court of appeal judgement ordering Mediapart to remove all extracts from the so-called 'butler tapes' that sparked off the Bettencourt affair. The campaign, which is entitled 'We have the right to know', is calling for signatures from journalists, politicians, the general public and, of course, Mediapart readers.

The Bettencourt affair censored by the court of Versailles

France — Opinion

The court of appeal at Versailles has ordered Mediapart to remove all quotes from the recordings whose publication transformed the Bettencourt affair into a major public scandal. Three years after Mediapart first revealed the content of these tapes, this decision is more than just an attack on the freedom of information, says editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel: it is an act of censorship.

Bettencourt butler bites back: 'I saw L'Oréal family destroyed'

France — Investigation

The so-called 'butler tapes', first revealed by Mediapart in June, hit world headlines and created the Bettencourt affair, a tale of influence peddling, tax-evasion and collusion among the high-flyers of the French political and business establishment. Now Mediapart exclusively reveals what Pascal Bonnefoy, butler to L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, subsequently told police about the behind-the-doors scenes in the home of Europe's wealthiest woman. He testified that she was the subject of physical and verbal abuse, the prey of an inner circle of "mature men" who hide behind "a tired and fragile woman", including one who he said had the habit of urinating in her plant pots.