EuropeParis Letter

Journalists’ battle to keep big bad wolf of French media at bay

Vincent Bolloré's news group takeover is in its final stages and his pockets are deeper than the workers’ solidarity strike fund

Journalists at the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) have fought valiantly for six weeks to keep the big bad wolf of French media and publishing at bay.

Billionaire Vincent Bolloré's takeover of the Lagardère news group, which includes the JDD, Paris Match and the Europe 1, Europe 2 and RFM radio stations, is in its final stages.

In late June, Bolloré chose Geoffroy Lejeune to be the new director of the 75-year-old Sunday newspaper. Lejeune (34) is the outgoing editor of the far-right weekly Valeurs Actuelles and a close friend of the extreme right-wing politicians Eric Zemmour and Marion Maréchal, the granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Lejeune’s appointment was contrary to the values of the JDD, the journalists said. They demanded a code of ethics preventing “publication of racist, sexist and homophobic content and, more generally, all hateful or discriminatory content”.


Management ended negotiations on July 24th and announced that Lejeune would start work at the JDD on Tuesday, August 1st.

The JDD has not published for a record six consecutive Sundays, running up estimated losses of €3 million. With a fortune estimated at €8.5 billion, Bolloré's pockets are deeper than the journalists’ solidarity strike fund.

Lejeune is the son of an officer in the French foreign legion and reportedly kept a statue of the Virgin Mary on the shelf of his previous office, alongside books by Zemmour.

Bolloré's CNews channel, which is the French equivalent of Fox News in the US, made Zemmour famous and was fined for the politician’s on-air comment that immigrant minors “are all thieves, murderers and rapists”. CNews has also hosted Renaud Camus, author of the “great replacement” theory which was at the origin of the 2019 Christ Church massacre of Muslim worshippers in New Zealand.

Bolloré is a fundamentalist Catholic who makes annual pilgrimages to Lourdes in his private jet. He reportedly sees political Christianity as a rampart against decadence and is determined to save “the Christian West”.

Lejeune attended Zemmour’s rallies during the 2022 presidential campaign. Speaking on CNews, Lejeune defended a deputy in the National Assembly from Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National who told a black deputy to “go back to Africa”.

Lejeune also adopted the anti-Nato line of the far right, saying in October 2022 that the Americans caused the war in Ukraine.

At Valeurs Actuelles, Lejeune published cover stories on “the true cost of the great replacement”, the far-right belief in a plot to replace white Christian populations with African and Arab Muslims. He devoted at least four covers to the Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire George Soros, with titles such as: “The billionaire who is plotting against France.”

An article published under Lejeune caricatured the far-left deputy in the National Assembly, Danièle Obono, as a slave. It led to a conviction for “racist insult” and a €1,000 fine.

Events at the JDD this summer were a repeat of earlier Bolloré takeovers at i-Télé (now CNews) in 2016 and Europe 1 radio station in 2021, which also led to strikes and mass departures by journalists.

In October 2021, when Bolloré began his takeover of the Lagardère group, Reporters without Borders, an NGO which defends journalists, produced a documentary entitled “System B” in which 11 journalist testified, face to camera, about the methods used by Bolloré to intimidate and harass them.

“Such a concentration of media in the hands of a businessman with a purely utilitarian vision of news, a concept of journalism based on servility and who systematically attacks journalists who investigate his business dealings represents an obvious threat to democratic debate,” Reporters without Borders said.

That same year, Bolloré took over the Hachette group, France’s largest publisher and the eighth-ranked publisher in the world.

Few politicians have the courage to challenge Bolloré. When Lejeune’s appointment as director of the JDD was announced, France’s then education minister, the historian Pap Ndiaye, said: “I can well understand why they don’t want to enter the galaxy of publications or media controlled by a character who is obviously close to the most radical extreme right.”

Speaking simultaneously on CNews and Europe 1 television and radio stations, journalist Laurence Ferrari attacked Ndiaye for “preaching about democracy from his cushy salon in the chic quarters of Paris” and pointed out that his children attend private schools.

The far-right politician Philippe de Villiers accused Ndiaye of harbouring “a secret plan to bring Islamism and wokeism into our schools”.

President Emmanuel Macron gave Ndiaye lukewarm support, then sacked him in his July 20th cabinet reshuffle.