French gossip weekly fined for ‘outing’ far-right politician
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Closer, the French gossip magazine that revealed President François Hollande’s affair with an actress, has been fined €20,000 for publishing photos of the National Front’s deputy leader with a man identified as his boyfriend.
A court in Paris ruled that Closer had “invaded the privacy” of Florian Philippot – who is a close ally of party leader Marine Le Pen – by publishing the pictures.
Philippot’s supposed homosexuality has long been the subject of debate within his far-right National Front party, but he himself has steadfastly refused to comment on the issue.
Closer’s decision to publish the photos sparked outrage in France, where politicians' private lives are still regarded as sacrosanct – although this is starting to change.
The magazine’s disclosure of Hollande’s affair with actress Julie Gayet triggered a debate about the media’s traditional discretion on such matters, with some calling for more scrutiny of politicians.
Gregoire Lafarge, Philippot's lawyer, argued Monday in court that the magazine had not acted in the public interest but purely to make money.
"Mr Philippot is admittedly a public figure but he is not a celebrity and has always explained that sexuality is an intimate affair," he said. "To 'out' (someone) is to stigmatise. After sexuality, what will we throw out to the public – religion, health?", asked Lafarge, who had initially asked for €50,000 in damages.
Delphine Pando, lawyer for Closer, argued the magazine had revealed the information in the public interest. She pointed out that Philippot was a high-ranking member of the National Front, which was strongly divided on the issue of gay marriage.
The judge ruled Wednesday that "even if the magazine says that Mr Philippot is the man who is most invited to morning radio and television shows after National Front leader [Marine Le Pen], his private life was not widely known and he never intended to publicly reveal it".
The judge also pointed out that the weekly had many readers and that Philippot and the other man were photographed with a long-range telephoto lens, which could constitute "harassment".
Closer was ordered to publish the verdict on its front page and pay Philippot €3,500 for his legal fees.
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