Paris, 14 February 2019 – On 13 February 2019, Socfin and Socapalm definitively withdrew their appeal in the defamation proceedings against Sherpa, ReAct and Mediapart.
As a reminder, in 2016, the Luxembourg holding company Socfin and its Cameroonian subsidiary Socapalm, linked to the Bolloré group, sued for defamation three media (Mediapart, L’Obs, Le Point) and two NGOs (Sherpa and ReAct) over articles about protests by rural residents and farmers who live near plantations run by these two companies in West Africa.
While Sherpa, ReAct and Mediapart had been discharged on 29 March 2018, Socfin and Socapalm decided to appeal this decision which admitted that the criteria of good faith were met. Their withdrawal puts an end to these proceedings.
This appeal hearing should have taken place during a week particularly busy with defamation trials launched by the Bolloré group. Since 2009, Bolloré and its partners have launched more than 16 defamation actions in France and abroad against many journalists, lawyers and NGO members.
These SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) suits brought by the Bolloré group, but also by other multinationals, aim to put pressure on journalists, whistleblowers and NGOs which try to highlight misconducts of these companies in order to silence. Heavy and costly procedures can discourage journalists and NGOs from conducting investigations or denouncing situations related to these major groups.
In this context, Socfin and Socapalm’s withdrawal is a real step forward in our fight for the right to information and freedom of the press.
The conflicts denounced in the articles at issue between the local communities living near oil palm and rubber plantations and the companies of the Socfin group are still vivid in several countries. It is essential that freedom of information be effective on these subjects.
Nevertheless, Sherpa calls for legislative reform to prevent the abusive use of such actions.
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