The newspaper Charlie Hebdo, sued by a Muslim school after an article associating it with the Muslim Brotherhood, invoked "its editorial line" by defending itself on Tuesday from any defamation before the court of Valence (Drôme). "They want to muzzle and limit freedom of expression," said Richard Malka, who is defending the satirical weekly. "The essence of the press and journalism is to create debate," he added, stressing that the offending article represented "the editorial line of Charlie Hebdo." Published in July 2022, it mentioned links between the association Valeurs et Réussite, which runs a school without a contract in Valencia, and the Islamist brotherhood of the Muslim Brotherhood. The article had created controversy and led, according to the association, to the cancellation in October 2022 of the sale of an 8400m2 plot of land, voted by the city in June, after an intervention by the prefecture.
The private primary school, which has about forty pupils, is currently housed in the grounds of the Great Mosque of Valencia. It intended to use the land to expand its premises and enter into a contract with the State. This link "to the Muslim Brotherhood is an attack on the honor" of the school, said Antoine Pastor, one of its lawyers, castigating "the untruthful nature of the article" and the "gross errors" committed by its author.
The president of Valeurs et Réussite, Mourad Jabri, said his association had "suffered an injustice" with "dramatic consequences on a project of public interest". "There is no link between the association and the Muslim Brotherhood," he said, adding that he was "bruised" and struck by "immense sadness". "Dozens of documents in the journalist's possession" allowed the article to be published, said another Charlie Hebdo lawyer, Marine Viegas. Beyond the substantive debate, Mr. Malka pleaded that the complaint was inadmissible because of the association's statutes which, according to him, "do not give the powers to its president" to sue Charlie Hebdo alone for defamation. The decision will be made on December 21.