#MeTooMédias: French journalists denounce sexual harassment and rape in the media industry

·4-min read

A new #MeToo scandal seized French media this week after eight women accused Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, a former top news anchor for the French TV channel TF1, of rape and sexual assault. Now more journalists are taking to social media to denounce the harassment, intimidation and abuse they say they’ve suffered in the industry.

“Sexual harassment, humiliation, discrimination, exploitation … Just having the strength to continue, even at my low level, already feels like a victory,” said journalist Tiphaine Blot on Twitter.

Another woman tweeted about a “journalist who raped me, harassed me and slandered me when I told him I didn’t want anything more than friendship. I almost left journalism because of him, and because of his girlfriend, who told me I was ‘too ugly to be raped’.”

Emma Audrey, a journalist who often does live reporting for Radio BIP/Média 25, reminded her followers in a tweet that harassment doesn’t just happen in the workplace but also in the street, where “violence comes from every side (police, protesters, passers-by, etc)”.

The French media industry is undergoing a reckoning as more and more journalists are using the hashtag #MeTooMédias to speak up about violence and harassment experienced in and outside the workplace.

Some journalists have spoken about how they were doubly affected, first by the harassment itself and then by what felt like a punishment for speaking up.

Marie Albert, a former journalist at the news agency Agence France-Presse, says that her contract was not renewed after she went public about the sexual harassment she had endured from a colleague for six months.

Élodie Hervé says that the news channel LCI stopped giving her regular work after she reported an attempted sexual assault at work, and that she was still fighting for her rights with the aid of a lawyer.

The wave of men and women coming forward to describe abuse in the workplace was prompted by an explosive report by the French newspaper Libération in which eight women accused former TV presenter Patrick Poivre d’Arvor of rape and sexual assault.

‘Complicit silence’ and ‘impunity’

Poivre d’Arvor is a household name in France. The now 74-year-old presented TF1’s evening news bulletin on weekdays for 21 years. In 2003, then French president Jacques Chirac awarded him the Légion d’Honneur – the country’s highest civilian honour.

The women who have come forward have described an enduring system of “domination” during his years working at TF1 – an “abuse of power” sustained by “complicit silence” and Poivre d’Arvor’s apparent feeling of total “impunity”.

One of the women to speak out publicly, Stéphanie Khayat, says she was raped by Poivre d’Arvor for the first time in 1994. She was suffering from anorexia at the time. She worked alongside him for four years after that.

“I never spoke to anyone about that encounter," she told Libération. "Never, never. Because I was ashamed. Because I felt dirty […] Because I agreed to work with him … It goes round and round in my head: How could I have accepted that job? I wasn’t backed up against a wall, I wasn’t forced to. So why?”

Poivre d’Arvor’s daughter Solenn had also suffered from anorexia, and she committed suicide in 1995. Khayat says that because of that he was extra attentive when she was working with him: He helped her through her illness and put her in touch with a specialist when he saw that her health had seriously deteriorated. He supported her decision to go to hospital for treatment for her anorexia. When she came out of hospital, she says he raped her again.

Support within the industry

Poivre d’Arvor has denied all of the charges against him. A case brought against him earlier in the year was dismissed, the court judging that there wasn’t enough evidence despite the testimonies of 22 women.

A group of his accusers have decided to set up an organisation called #MeTooMédias to support the fight of “the men and women who are silently suffering in the media industry”. When contacted by FRANCE 24, they said that they weren’t yet ready to give further details about the organisation as it was still in its early stages.

Media trade unions and associations are also supporting the movement. The top trade union for journalists in France, the Syndicat National des Journalistes, tweeted its support for victims of sexual violence and for the new organisation.

Prenons La Une, an organisation that fights for gender parity and professional equality in the media, tweeted: “To all those who are using the hashtag #MeTooMédias to tell their story, and to all those who remain silent, we support you and we believe you.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting