When Vincent Boloré was a schoolboy, his teacher had written on his report card: “Vincent gets involved in everything, he just has to take my place.” He tells it himself, during a hearing in the Senate, to explain how, through hard work, he bailed out the family business. For its detractors, this interventionism would pose a problem today in the media it controls, by threatening the freedom of expression of journalists.
It is, in any case, the fear of the editorial staff of the Sunday Journal (JDD), on strike after the appointment of Geoffroy Lejeune as its head, on June 23. Since then, four editions have not appeared. The former editor of Current values, a weekly close to the far right, was dismissed because he was considered too close to the ideas of Éric Zemmour. In short, really too right.
Despite his denials, the journalists of the JDD accuse their owner, Arnaud Lagardère (Hachette, Europe 1, etc.), of having appointed Geoffroy Lejeune to anticipate the desires of Vincent Bolloré, who became the majority in the Lagardère group from 2021, through the Vivendi group. This takeover also enabled it to become the world’s third-largest consumer and educational publishing group.
In previous media takeovers, Vincent Bolloré would have imposed his views on recalcitrant journalists. The takeover of iTélé in 2016 led to a long strike by its journalists. Dozens of them left when iTélé became the CNews opinion channel.
Reporter Nicolas Vescovacci recounts in his book how Canal+, bought by Vincent Bolloré, refused to broadcast in 2015 his investigation into a suspicion of laundering tax evasion targeting a bank close to the Bolloré group. The documentary will finally be broadcast on France 3. An example of censorship among others, according to the author.
Before the Senate commission of inquiry into the concentration of the media in France, in January 2022, Vincent Bolloré assured not to do politics. He invests in the media not to impose his ideas but because it is “the second most profitable sector in the world, after luxury”. When the socialist deputy David Assouline reminds him that his acquisitions “were accompanied by a certain brutality in destroying newsrooms, at iTélé, Europe 1, Paris Match”, the businessman explains that he was content to reduce costs to save these entities. He concludes: “The group is so vast that one can say everything and its opposite about my ideas.”
They do not seem easy to decipher, as it remains secret on this subject. However, according to a relative quoted by journalist Vincent Beaufils, the billionaire admits in private to using his media to lead a “civilizational fight”. A defense of the Christian West in the face of immigration and the decline of traditional values, where Éric Zemmour, columnist on CNews before running for president in 2022, played an important role. This would explain, for example, that Paris Match, more accustomed to movie stars, published a cover a year ago on Bishop Robert Sarah, a Guinean cardinal with little progressive views.
Hence the concerns of JDD journalists, and part of the profession. Reporters Without Borders and other associations for the defense of freedom of the press want Parliament to take up the subject and strengthen the independence of newsrooms vis-à-vis their owners. Because if the latter are often billionaires (Dassault, Pinault, Arnault, Drahi, Niel, etc.)*, few have been accused of interfering so much in the editorial lines of their media.
*Le Pèlerin is published by Bayard, whose sole shareholder is the Congrégation des Augustins de l’Assomption.