On France Culture, how the “Hulot affair” shook up journalism

“Mechanics of Journalism: The Nicolas Hulot Affair”

On France Culture

Five years ago, in the midst of the #MeToo movement, the “Hulot affair” broke out. When the short-lived magazine Ebdo, created in January 2018 by journalist Patrick de Saint-Exupéry and publisher Laurent Beccaria, made its headlines on the sexual assaults that Nicolas Hulot allegedly subjected to a young photographer in 1997, the outcry is general. The investigation by Laurent Valdiguié and Anne Jouan is criticized for being based on anonymous testimony and for lacking rigor, recalls the 11e part of France Culture’s “Mechanics of Journalism” podcast collection. The complainant, who requested anonymity, will turn out to be Pascale Mitterrand, the granddaughter of the former socialist president.

At the time, Nicolas Hulot was head of the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Favorite personality of the French, he carries the hopes of change for part of the population. Above all, the investigation of theEbdo breaking a taboo in France. The French general information press has so far refrained from talking about the private life of public figures, unless acts or omissions interfered in the functioning of public life. “We were right against everyone, but we weren’t talking about prescribed cases at the time”, notes Laurent Valdiguié, who regrets not having been able to publish a second investigation with three new testimonies.

Investigation continued by “Special Envoy”

L’Ebdo, due to a lack of cash, ceased publication three months after its launch. But a journalist from “Special Envoy”, Virginie Vilar, is continuing the investigation, collecting other testimonies from women. The investigation of theEbdo and the climate of liberation created by the #MeToo movement have awakened pain and the desire to speak. On the eve of the broadcast of the report in November 2021, Nicolas Hulot announces his retirement from political life. This podcast recounts with nuance the path traveled by the media to investigate these delicate cases, the difficulties and the doubts.

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