Canal Plus faces libel fine

Result of claims made in heatwave deaths report

PARIS — Canal Plus prexy Bertrand Meheut and a reporter on its news show “90 Minutes” have each been fined e1,000 ($1,330) for libeling pubcaster France 2’s former topper in a report about the Gallic heatwave in 2003.

A Paris court found Tuesday that journalist Jean-Baptiste Rivoire failed “in his obligation to prudent expression of his opinions” when he claimed in a report aired on Canal Plus Sept. 15, 2003, that Olivier Mazerolle had refused to allow France 2 to air its probe into the high number of deaths caused by the heatwave.

The implication in the report was that Mazerolle was concerned about appeasing the government, which funds the pubcaster.

Pols were widely blamed for not moving quickly to provide aid to the elderly during the August heatwave in which an estimated 10,000 heat-related deaths were recorded. Many of the fatalities occurred Aug. 12, when temperatures peaked at more than 100 degrees in northern France.

The court found no evidence that Mazerolle chose not to air the results to protect the government.

However, the small fine amounts to a minor rebuke for Meheut and Rivoire, who also were ordered to pay a symbolic sum of e1 ($1.33) in damages and to air the judgment clearing Mazerolle on “90 Minutes.”

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