Bolloré loses defamation appeal against media company that exposed SOCFIN’s rights violations in Cameroon

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

On 27 March the Bolloré Group lost on appeal its defamation case against France Télévisions. Bolloré had sued the media company after it aired a documentary in 2016 about Vincent Bolloré, one of the group’s main shareholders and one of France’s richest and best known businessmen.

Bolloré and Belgian businessman Hubert Fabri control SOCFIN, a major palm oil, natural rubber and seed producer headquartered in Luxembourg. SOCFIN holds thousands of hectares of plantations in Africa and Asia.

The documentary revealed poor working conditions and child labour at Socapalm, a SOCFIN palm oil subsidiary in Cameroon. Journalists had raised concerns that the lawsuit had the aim of silencing criticism of corporate behaviour.

The Paris court ordered Bolloré to pay €10,000 in damages to the television company for initiating abusive proceedings.

In February . SOCFIN has stated that it respects human rights and these countries’ laws and that it “has a zero tolerance to using force or corrupt means to influence people’s right to express themselves.”

In Cameroon, SOCFIN’s subsidiaries Socapalm and Safacam have been . SOCFIN has denied any wrongdoing and called these accusations unjust and false.

In September 2018, the forest and rights NGO SOCFIN said it has no authority to prevent villagers from pressing their own palm oil or accessing their crops, and that the land has been legally leased to the company by the state.

SOCFIN has made numerous commitments to greater transparency, respect for human rights and responsible management across its plantations. Following the court decision, Fern stated that “the case underscores, again, the limits of voluntary social and environmental commitments” made by large corporations.

The organisation emphasised that “an EU action plan addressing deforestation and community rights is needed, including a regulation mandating company due diligence on human rights and environmental harm”.

Image on homepage shows the rubber plantation of the Salala Rubber Corporation in Liberia. Courtesy of Bread for All.