France’s iTélé show host suspended following journalists’ strike

Itele

Itele

Journalists at French 24-hour news station iTélé went on strike for a second week on Monday over the hiring of presenter Jean-Marc Morandini, who is under formal investigation for sexual harassment and the coercion of minors.

Morandini officially joined the channel earlier this month at the insistence of Vincent Bolloré – whose mass media conglomerate Vivendi owns iTélé’s parent company Canal+. Despite vocal opposition from journalists, Bolloré has continued to stand by Morandini.

But in a turn of events on Monday, Canal+ announced it was suspending the presenter’s show “Morandini Live”, which debuted last week, for the duration of the strike due to “operational reasons”.

Striking journalists, however, vowed to continue their fight. Earlier in the day, they voted to prolong the strike by 24 hours. A protest has also been called outside the channel’s offices on Tuesday afternoon.

Many at iTélé see Morandini’s hiring as emblematic of a greater struggle within the newsroom to maintain editorial independence and journalistic ethics. Since Bolloré gained control of the channel last year, it has undergone numerous changes, including plans to rebrand it as CNews (short for Canal+ News) on October 24.

iTélé journalists have demanded that the channel appoint an independent director, that a charter on journalistic standards and ethics be signed and that changes planned for the stations’ rebranding policy be made transparent.

iTélé offices trashed

But in a sign of mounting tensions at the channel over the weekend, journalists entered iTélé’s headquarters in the western Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt to discover that a number of offices had been moved to make way for their sister publication, free daily Direct Matin.

Photos posted on Twitter showed the newsroom in a state of total disarray, with journalists’ belongings dumped unceremoniously into rubbish bins, and computers taped to office chairs lined up against a wall.

“We were not at all informed of the move,” Milan Poyet, an iTélé journalist and spokesman for the ongoing strike, told FRANCE 24, adding that newsroom staff had learned of it through the grapevine.

“A crew came and threw personal photos and files into the rubbish. The staff tried to save what they could,” he said. “It’s done little to calm the situation… It’s more than a mistake.”

iTélé’s management tried to distance themselves from the “incident” on Sunday, telling AFP that movers “were not given instructions to put anyone’s belongings in the rubbish” and had made a mistake. They added that the move had begun earlier than planned.

“Those who will be moving are to be informed starting Monday. There was an incident this weekend concerning the belongings of six or seven people following the premature start of the moving operation,” the channel said.

The strike has drawn an outpouring of support from both the left and the right of the political spectrum, as well as the country’s main audiovisual regulator (the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel). Employees at a number of rival channels and publications have also expressed their solidarity with the movement.