By Elsa Buchanan, International Politics Correspondent
The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, will announce whether her complaint against Fox News about Muslim “no-go areas” will be filed in a French or American court as soon as next Monday (26 January).
The Mayor is moving forward with her lawsuit, despite Fox News calling it “ridiculous”.
“Anne Hidalgo was clear about her decision to sue Fox News, and we will have finalised the terms of the lawsuit before the end of this week,” Matthieu Lamarre, a spokesman for the Paris Mayor’s office, told The London Economic.
“We will announce where the lawsuit will be filed as soon as next week.”
Hidalgo, who was elected as Paris’s first female mayor in April, announced her intention to sue the American network Fox in an interview with CNN on Tuesday (20 January).
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour had invited Hidalgo to respond to Fox News’ remarks that there were “no-go zones” in Paris where non-Muslims and even police were afraid to go.
“Well Listen, I think that when you are insulted and that you hurt the image by relating information that is untrue, well I actually consider going to court,” she told Amanpour before adding: ““The image of Paris has been prejudiced, and the honour of Paris has been prejudiced.”
While Hidalgo has not yet outlined her legal arguments, her spokesman confirmed the Mayor was going ahead with the lawsuit, despite having been ridiculed by experts in the US – and on the Fox network.
A slander lawsuit for Paris
Given its reach via television and its website, Fox News can be sued in many places, despite the fact lawsuits are generally brought where the alleged wrongdoing occurred.
In this case, suing the New York-based network in the US is one of the most likely scenarios, despite the fact that US lawsuits for slander or libel need to identify a particular individual or entity in the US.
Since Hidalgo’s comments, Fox has highlighted a libel suit filed by a city in the US would probably be thrown out immediately on the grounds that such a lawsuit would be “frivolous”.
Fox’s Bill O’Reilly addressed the lawsuit threat on the Tuesday night edition of his program, calling it “ridiculous”.
His guest on the show, media expert Bernie Goldberg, added: “I don’t know what the laws are in France. If this were in America, it would be called a frivolous lawsuit… Anybody can sue anybody, but a city can’t win a lawsuit because it’s been insulted.”
Speech and media laws are different in France, however.
According to the Law on the Freedom of the Press of 1881, in France, defamation is defined as “any allegation or imputation of an act affecting the honour or reputation of the person or body against whom it is made.”
Would Hidalgo choose to sue the Fox network in France, she may have a case.
It is up to the defendant to prove a statement is true, instead of a plaintiff having to prove a statement is false.
However, for US citizens to pay damages if they’re found liable under French defamation laws, it depends on whether or not the company would have been found liable in a US court, according to the 2010 Speech Act, a law designed to protect the American publishers from lawsuits for libel overseas.