Journalists and editors at Le Monde signed and open letter demanding the Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky guarantee editorial independence for the French newspaper.
The following is and excerpt from the open letter to Daniel Kretinsky.
Le Monde is at a crossroads. For the first time in its history, it could be forced to admit a new shareholder in its capital without its journalists being consulted. Our editorial freedom is at stake.
For the past year, it is with extreme concern that we have witnessed the first important change in our group’s capital since its acquisition in 2010 by a group of private investors (Pierre Bergé, Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse). In October 2018 we learned the sale of 49 % of the shares belonging to Matthieu Pigasse to the industrialist, Daniel Kretinsky. Le Monde’s Independency Group, a minority shareholder gathering the association of journalists, the staff, the readers and the founders, was not informed of this operation.
This announcement aroused concerns. Subsequently, on October 25th 2018, Matthieu Pigasse and Xavier Niel, the two principal shareholders since the death of Pierre Bergé in 2017, agreed in writing to grant the Independency Group a right of approval. Such a clause would allow the Independency Group a right to approve or disapprove of the entry of any new shareholder with controlling rights. They also committed not to carry out any movement of capital until this right of approval had been formalised.
After a year of intense negotiations, this right has still not been signed in. Last summer, our concern increased with the opening of exclusive negotiations by Mr Pigasse and Mr Kretinsky to buy the shares of the Spanish group, Prisa, another non-controlling shareholder of Le Monde.
On Tuesday 3rd September, the Independency Group therefore requested that Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse fulfilled their promise to guarantee our independence and to sign this right of approval before September 17th. Xavier Niel did so on Monday September 9th.
We, journalists, expect Matthieu Pigasse to do the same. We also ask his new associate, Daniel Kretinsky, to co-sign this agreement. In keeping with the moral promises made by Pierre Bergé to Le Monde during his lifetime, and with which he never comprised, we also request Pierre Bergé’s heir, Madison Cox, to add his signature.