The information did not make much noise, until a paper of the Obs August 2: Benoît Collombat, senior reporter for France Inter, won the long series of lawsuits brought against him by Vincent Bolloré in March. He had been the first journalist in France to be sued by the businessman, since 2009 and a documentary, Cameroon, the black empire of Vincent Bolloré. At the time, Bolloré attacked his forty-minute investigation for defamation and won his case. Radio France did not appeal the decision.
In 2015, Benoît Collombat told in the collective book Informing is not a crime, published by Calmann-Lévy editions, this first trial. At the end of 2015, Vincent Bolloré again sued him, with his editor Florence Sultan, for this text. In May 2019, the oligarch was dismissed and sentenced for “abusive procedure” and “abuse of civil action”, as well as damages of 9,000 euros for the benefit of Benoît Collombat. Vincent Bolloré, as usual, appealed, and the judgment was confirmed in March 2022. In June, he decided not to appeal, which put an end to this procedure. Because he is eyeing the Calmann-Lévy editions? Not impossible.
“This trial was also that of freedom of expression”
Benoît Collombat, reached by telephone, underlines his “satisfaction, on a personal level”, but above all insists on the collective dimension of this victory: “This trial was also that of freedom of expression, of the possibility of questioning an oligarch like Vincent Bolloré. A libel suit is part of a journalist’s lifecontinues the investigator, but it was my first trial that represented a strategic moment in Vincent Bolloré’s mind: it was from there that he prosecuted journalists, NGOs, civic associations who were interested in his fruitful African affairs. » The goal: to intimidate, with long and costly procedures, which discourage the weakest structures or the most precarious investigators. The journalist wonders: justice has not “device up to par against these gag complaints”. Above all, the media landscape is worrying: “Is it still possible today to criticize oligarchs like Vincent Bolloré? The alert rating has now been reached, with a public service increasingly under attack and an increasingly gluttonous private sector, which owns more and more media. »