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France12 January 2006

Lyon Capitale in receivership

Placed in receivership on 10 January by the city’s commercial court, Lyon Capitale has avoided liquidation for the present and is open to possible new ownership bids. In the meantime, the newspaper has still not reappeared for sale at newsstands.

9 January 2006

Lyons-based weekly faces bankruptcy after criticising city’s mayor

Reporters Without Borders voiced regret today that the provincial weekly Lyon Capitale is facing bankruptcy as a result of its criticism of Lyons mayor Gérard Collomb in October over his allocation of public markets, which prompted the mayor to withdraw all municipal advertising from the newspaper.

Run at a loss for years, Lyon Capitale has depended on municipal subsidies and advertising for its survival. Its financial problems deepened after it was bought by a group of private investors in August. A close aide of the mayor told Reporters Without Borders that Collomb terminated all advertising because he felt he had been libelled, but the decision is likely to result in the newspaper’s closure and the dismissal of all of its staff.

“We regret that a newspaper’s survival is in danger because it criticised a local politician,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Lyon Capitale’s journalists are paying the price for the sharp deterioration in relations between the newspaper’s executives and the city of Lyons. Regardless of whether or not the accusations against mayor were true, the use of state and local government advertising as a means of pressure threatens press freedom and must be condemned.”

Lyon Capitale used to support Collomb when he took over as mayor in 2001 but it gradually began giving more and more space to the local opposition, especially his leading challenger, Dominique Perben of the centre-right UMP. After the publication of the very critical issue in October, the mayor took Lyon Capitale’s majority shareholder, Bruno Rousset, to task about its editorial line. The newspaper’s publisher, Jean-Olivier Arfeuillère, was fired on 13 December.

Rejecting the publisher appointed to replace Arfeuillère, the newspaper’s staff staged a series of strikes in December. The editor was dismissed as well on 3 January. The newspaper has not been published for several weeks and may never re-appear.

Meanwhile, the staff of another Lyons-based newspaper, La Tribune de Lyon, also went on strike on 4 January in protest against the censorship of a report implicating the mayor in a case of embezzlement. The publisher, who is a Collomb supporter, refused to publish the article and replaced it with an interview with Collomb.

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