French reporters end an unsuccessful strike against a new editor known as a far-right supporter

It was the longest journalists’ strike in France in decades. Le Journal du Dimanche was absent from newsstands for the sixth week in a row Sunday

People enter the Lagardere News headquarters Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 in Paris.
People enter the Lagardere News headquarters Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 in Paris.Christophe Ena (AP)

Journalists at France’s emblematic Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche ended a 40-day strike Tuesday after unsuccessfully protesting the appointment of an editor-in-chief they denounce as a far-right supporter.

It was the longest journalists’ strike in France in decades. The newspaper, also known as the JDD, was absent from newsstands for the sixth week in a row Sunday. The newspaper’s owner, the Lagardere group, said the printed version would resume publication in mid-August.

The journalists had denounced the appointment of Geoffroy Lejeune, known for his far-right political views, which they say is putting the editorial independence of the newspaper at risk.

Lejeune has openly supported far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, a former TV pundit who run in France’s April 2022 election, drawing fervent audiences with his anti-Islam, anti-immigration invective. Zemmour lost in the first round with 7% of the votes.

The newspaper’s journalists’ association (SDJ) said in a statement Tuesday that 94% of the staff decided to end the strike as the Lagardere group “remained deaf to our claims.” The journalists had almost unanimously supported the strike when it began on June 22.

“We didn’t win,” they wrote in the statement. “Today, Geoffroy Lejeune is taking office. It’s in an empty newsroom he will step in. Dozens of journalists refuse to work with him and should leave the JDD.”

Lagardere group said in a statement that the management reached an agreement with the journalists’ association and unions that provides that the JDD website will start releasing articles again from Tuesday on and that the newspaper will go back on newsstands from mid-August.

The agreement also provides a financial package for journalists who want to leave the newspaper, the statement said.

“The JDD will thus continue to offer quality information to all its readers,” Lagardere group said.

The newspaper is known for its broad political interviews with French presidents, prime ministers, opposition leaders and other key political players from the right and the left. They often opened major debates on the country’s domestic issues.

Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders criticized Lejeune’s appointment as part of a broader move threatening the independence of the journalists. It noted that the appointment comes as French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, who already owns several major French media, is in the process of buying Lagardere group.

In the past, the JDD has been criticized by left-wing politicians as being too close to conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy during his 2007-2012 term. In recent years, opponents said it was politically close to the government of centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

The newspaper created in 1948 sells about 136,000 copies nationwide each week, according to last year’s figures, down from sales in previous decades.

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