The mayor of Paris on Tuesday said she intended to sue Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News over insults she said the U.S. cable television network hurled at the French capital following this month’s massacre at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Mayor Anne Hidalgo said Paris planned legal action because the city’s honor was “prejudiced” by Fox reports that wrongly suggested areas of the city were “no-go zones” that were closed to non-Muslims.
“The image of Paris has been prejudiced and the honor of Paris has been prejudiced,” Hidalgo said.
Fox on Saturday issued several apologies for statements made on-air that suggested such zones existed in Europe.
In one such apology, anchor Julie Banderas said the network “made some regrettable errors on air regarding the Muslim population in Europe,” and apologized “to any and all who may have taken offense, including the people of France and England.”
It was not immediately clear where Paris might sue Fox, a division of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.
Legal experts said the city faced an uphill legal fight, especially in the United States, which has strong protections for media against defamation and libel claims.
“I believe there is no cause of action in the United States, period,” said Jane Kirtley, a media law professor at the University of Minnesota.
“This is an example of someone from another country not recognizing the force of the First Amendment, which allows criticism of governmental entities,” she said, referring to part of the U.S. Constitution.
Kirtley said France has potentially more accommodative “insult” laws that could let government officials claim that published statements, even if truthful, assaulted their dignity.
But even if Paris prevailed in France, enforcing a judgment might be difficult, because a 2010 U.S. law called the Speech Act makes a variety of foreign libel judgments that conflict with U.S. laws unenforceable in U.S. courts.
“Even if a judgment were obtained in France, it would be impossible under American law to enforce it here,” said Robert Drechsel, a journalism professor who teaches media law at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Michael Clemente, Fox News’ executive vice president of news, said in a statement on Tuesday: “We empathize with the citizens of France as they go through a healing process and return to everyday life. However, we find the mayor’s comments regarding a lawsuit misplaced.”
Gunmen on Jan. 7 stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 12 people to avenge cartoons they said had mocked Islam.