French media faces #MeToo moment as senior male journalists suspended for trolling women
Several senior male journalists in France have been suspended over revelations they partook in a secret "boys’ club" that trolled women writers and feminists for years online.
In an affair dubbed the French media’s #MeToo, around 30 men from the French media faced calls to resign after it emerged they had been part of the "League of LOL". The closed Facebook group mocked the work and appearance of women, and in some cases men, cracked jokes about rape and used pornographic memes to demean them.
The attacks had pushed one woman to quit journalism and left another suicidal.
Nora Bouazzouni, a journalist, said that the group had posted anonymous insults and created montages of her face on pornographic images. “Many women were terrified by these people and were afraid of denouncing them,” she said.
The left-wing Liberation newspaper and cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles announced they had suspended four journalists working for them, including including Vincent Glad, who founded the group, after Libé’s own fact-checking unit revealed the League of LOL’s existence. The taunts mainly took place between 2009 and 2012.
At least three other members of the group have been suspended by their employers and another has quit his job.
“Shameful,” wrote Libération’s editor-in-chief Laurent Joffrin in an editorial on Tuesday. “Harassment, insults, cruel hoaxes, a whole array of digital attacks were used by this group,” he said, adding that Liberation would review social media policy for its journalists.
In a Twitter apology, Mr Glad said he was "horrified to now see my tweets from 2013 when I joked about rape culture. I am ashamed”. "The idea behind the group was not to harass women. Only to have fun. But very quickly, our way of having fun became very problematic and we didn’t realise.”
Mr Glad said he "had not realised until today how macho our stance was. I didn’t see how our jokes were shutting down the first wave of feminists speaking out on social media."
"I had the stupid reaction of many men at the time – why are they annoying us with all this?,” he added.
Je vous dois des explications. Et surtout des excuses. pic.twitter.com/UajOC0bi0h
— Vincent Glad (@vincentglad) February 10, 2019
In his online apology David Doucet, web editor at music and culture magazine Les Inrockuptibles, wrote that he had been a member of the group for two years: "In the small world that was Twitter then, I saw that certain people were being regularly targeted but I had no idea of the scale and the trauma suffered.
"I was cowardly and too happy to be a part of this band that the Twittersphere at the time admired to intervene.”
Mounir Mahjoubi, the digital economy minister, called the group a “bunch of losers” whose online attacks had “had an impact in the real world”. Marlène Schiappa, the equality minister, branded the group’s posts sexist harassment and urged victims to lodge criminal complaints.
Journalist Melanie Wanga, who said she quit Twitter for several years because of abuse, tweeted that the harassers were finally getting their just desserts. "You can see these harassers erasing all their dodgy tweets and talking about equality and regurgitating the work of all the feminists they attacked to buy themselves a new virginity," she said.
In a separate development, Le Monde newspaper announced that three journalists from the French edition of the Huffington Post news site, in which it has a stake, had been fired for making "unacceptable remarks in a work context”.
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