Keyword: European Court of Human Rights

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

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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.

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France’s highest court the Cour de Cassation has upheld the ruling that censored Mediapart's coverage of the Bettencourt affair. The decision confirms that more than 70 articles detailing the secret recordings made by the Bettencourt family's butler must remain suppressed, even though the revelation of the content of these very recordings has led to a string of scandals and high-profile judicial investigations. Editor François Bonnet says that faced with this anti-freedom stance by the top French courts, who have given the right to privacy complete precedence over the public's right to know, Mediapart has no choice but to appeal to Europe.

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