HRWF (05.04.2013) – The France Télévisions Company must pay the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre 6,000 euros for costs and damages and compensation for having undermined the group’s presumption of innocence.
On May 27, 2010, the France Télévisions Company broadcast a documentary on France 2 entitled « Scientology, the Truth Concerning a Lie. » It bought the rights to this program from the Nova Prod Company. It presented the documentary on its website www.francetelevisions.fr in these terms:
« Founded in 1950 in the United States by Ron Hubbard and renamed ‘Church’ in 1954, Scientology-whether considered a ‘mental technology’, a church, or a cult-has succeeded in the last 50 years at imposing itself on the world. What is this « empire » which former adherents accuse of various totalitarian deviations but which nonetheless continues to seduce new members to join? What are its objectives, its practices, and its ideology? To decrypt Scientology’s philosophies, former and current disciples testify and show how one can be trapped both soul and body, sometimes as a family, children included, in a system that totally alienates one from normal society. This investigative documentary illuminates the real risks which Scientology poses to our world and to our era when ‘the church’ has for the first time in France just recently been convicted for conspiracy to commit fraud. »
Considering that the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre lodged an appeal after the Criminal Court of Paris on October 27, 2009 had ruled against it and therefore that the broadcast of the documentary did not respect the presumption of innocence, the Celebrity Centre filed a complaint against the France Télévisions Company suing for redress of damages for its prejudicial actions.
On January 29, 2013, the Court of Appeal of Caen concluded:
« To publically present the Church of Scientology as having been guilty, without mentioning the existence of an appeal which preserved the presumption of innocence, is to attack it. Certainly, the television station was not ignorant of the existence of this appeal since it had talked about it on the news broadcast of France 2 the same day as the rendering of the criminal judgment.
And the on air broadcast of May 27, 2010 was not the same as the simple report (contained in the news) of the deposition of a judgment passed down on October 27, 2009.
In fact, contrary to what France Télévisions indicated, the church had not just been convicted: that had taken place seven months before.
In the absence of any indication of the appeal, the average person reading the internet would be led to believe that the guilt of the Church of Scientology was certain.
It is important to note that the France Télévisions Company was perfectly aware that it had, in broadcasting this incomplete presentation, committed a violation of the rights of the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre. »
The court judged that France Télévisions undermined the presumption of innocence, which the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre was entitled to, when it published on its website between May 24 and 27, 2010, an introductory notice of a documentary entitled « Scientology, the Truth Concerning a Lie » in these terms, « this investigative documentary illuminates the real risks which Scientology poses to our world and to our era when ‘the church’ has for the first time in France just recently been convicted for conspiracy to commit fraud. »
The court ruled that the France Télévisions Company must pay the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre 6,000 Euros for costs and damages and compensation. It dismissed the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre’s other demands.
France Télévisions announced it will not appeal.
HRWF Footnote: No media in France echoed this court decision.