PARIS: France’s flagship Sunday newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD), was not published this Sunday after its staff went on strike to protest against the nomination of a new editor-in-chief who worked for a far-right magazine.

The newspapers owner, French media group Lagardere , on Friday named Geoffroy Lejeune as JDD’s new editor-in-chief, succeeding Jerome Begle who left for Paris Match.

Lejeune is the former head of magazine Valeurs Actuelles, which has courted controversy with anti-immigrant covers and was fined for racist insult in 2022.

The move comes just two weeks after the European Commission gave a conditional green light to the acquisition of Lagardere by Vivendi the media conglomerate controlled by French billionaire Vincent Bollore.

The company already owns news channel CNews, which has taken a conservative turn since Bollore took control. Anti-immigration and hardline law-and-order comments made by some of its talk show hosts regularly inflame social media, drawing comparisons with US channel Fox News. On Sunday, the French government weighed in for the first time.

“I understand the newsrooms concerns. Legally speaking, the JDD can become whatever it wants, as long as it abides by the law. But as far as our Republics values are concerned, how can one not be alarmed?” French culture minister Rima Abdul Malak said on Twitter.

The head of international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders denounced what he said was a “brutal method” to assert shareholder control over the newsroom that contradicted “the basic rules of journalism”.

In a statement, Arnaud Lagardere said Geoffroy Lejeune was a “raw talent of journalism” that he could not pass up. Vivendi was not immediately available for comment.

Lejeune said he was “honoured” to lead a prestigious publication like the JDD.

The JDD editorial association said in a statement it was “stunned” by Lejeunes nomination. “Under Geoffroy Lejeune, Valeurs Actuelles spread hateful attacks and fake news. We refuse that the JDD follows this path.”

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2023

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