JUSTICE – The penalty for slanderous denunciation is five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros, says article 226-10 of the penal code. What the lawyers’ bible does not say, however, is that defamation complaints can also generate powerful impulses. This is more or less the case in what should now be called the PPDA affair.
While Patrick Poivre d’Arvor continues to deny the accusations of sexual assault and rape that have targeted him since the first complaint filed by Florence Porcel in February 2021, this Tuesday, May 10, 20 women testified live on the set of Mediapart facing journalists Valentine Oberti and Mathieu Magnaudeix.
> Update on PPDA Complaints and Investigations
The image of these 20 women, two of whom spoke with their backs turned to the camera for fear of reprisals, marks a new stage after more than a year of revelations via powerful portraits in Releaseor announcing new complaints against the journalist. But in recent weeks, the situation has changed with the PPDA’s defamation complaint against 16 of the women who accuse him.
The journalist was also asked to speak by the daily, but declined and continues to deny. For the moment, a first investigation concerning a good part of the complaints has been dismissed for prescription or lack of evidence. However, another judicial investigation is underway following a new complaint filed by Florence Porcel.
The defamation complaint, an electric shock
For its part, unlike its first complaint for slanderous denunciation which was dismissed, this time, PPDA has instituted civil proceedings against those who, in its view, harbor a “bitterness which leads them to commit, out of belated revenge , the offense of slanderous denunciation”.
Enough to trigger an electric shock in his accusers as Valentine Oberti told the HuffPost: “We have been talking to them for a show for a while now. And this complaint triggered in them the desire to speak out”.
And this is precisely what the journalist Hélène Devynck pointed out on set as well on the set of Mediapartwho spoke of “the violence of PPDA which means that we have to do it [ndlr: de parler]”, that Margot Cauquil-Gleizes, teacher, who testified, she for the first time.
“This is the first time that I have testified publicly in response to the filing of a complaint by Mr. Poivre d’Arvor for slanderous denunciation. Being here today, with my face uncovered, is a way of telling him that I am not afraid and that I stand by my testimony, namely that he raped me when I was a minor, I was 17 years old, and that he sexually assaulted me in his office at the age of 24”, she explained at the start of the program.
A desire to speak out and react, as had already been provoked in November 2021 by the interview given by PPDA on the Daily set. At the time, only Florence Porcel had yet spoken openly, but already the rumor of other stories to come was gaining momentum.
The journalist’s denials against Yann Barthès then gave birth to the MeTooMédias association, which fights against violence in the media. That evening on TMC, “the mode of defense chosen by the journalist shocked many women, including many victims of his actions”, relates the website of the association which specifies that after this interview, 22 women went talk to the court.
Go to court
But the scope of the PPDA affair cannot be measured only by media echo. By filing a complaint for defamation, he brings these women together on the Mediapart set, but also in fact soon in court. A legal appointment therefore, which will not be without risk.
“Thank you Patrick for offering us on a plate the trial that we were not allowed to have because of prescription. He shoots himself in the foot”, thus greeted in The Parisian, journalist Emmanuelle Dancourt, who filed a complaint in 2021 against the journalist for a sexual assault of which she was allegedly the victim in 2008. “Hopefully this trial will take place, and you will see the 16 victims arm in arm arriving in court very very determined. Finally we will be able to talk to him eye to eye, if he dares to come”, she added.
Something to echo the analysis of this psychiatrist specializing in gender-based and sexual violence interviewed by Madmoizelle. She recalled in particular that the support groups for victims of sexual violence are “a veritable cocoon of strength built by and for the victims, a new weapon of self-defense feared by the perpetrators of violence, who wish above all to isolate their victims”.
The previous Baupin
If the complaint for defamation in cases of sexual violence is also reprimanded as a method of “silence” of the victims, the passage through the court can sometimes reverse the charge. This was illustrated by the Denis Baupin affair. In 2016, eight women, including Sandrine Rousseau, accused the elected EELV of sexual harassment, even sexual assault. Other testimonies flow, an investigation is opened by the Paris prosecutor’s office, but finally closed without further action for prescription. The prosecutor nevertheless recognizes that certain “facts denounced (…) are for some of them likely to be qualified criminally”.
Denis Baupin then decides to file a complaint for defamation. A trial at the end of which he himself will finally be sentenced to damages for “abuse of civil action”. Over the weeks of hearings, and as the accusers recounted the sexual violence on the stand, the charge was reversed. The trial for defamation has become that of free speech.
Even more recently, Pierre Joxe saw his cassation appeal dismissed when he challenged a decision of the Paris Court of Appeal. The latter had chosen to reverse the defamation conviction of Anne Fornia who accused the former minister of sexual assault. Ditto for the appeal in cassation of Patrick Brion whom Sandra Muller accused of sexual harassment at the launch of the hashtag “balance your pork”.
For PPDA, in addition to this defamation lawsuit against his accusers, there is the one against The Parisian which will take place in 2023 according to Mediapart, another investigation in progress against Release. Above all, contrary to the Baupin case, all the facts of which the journalist is accused are not time-barred and several procedures are still in progress.
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