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Last Updated:  Thursday, 3 April, 2003, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
France's Le Monde sues for libel
Le Monde newspaper
Le Monde is considered one of France's most prestigious newspapers
The French newspaper, Le Monde, has said it is suing for libel the authors and publishers of a book which criticises its methods and ethics.

Le Monde is seeking more than one million euros in damages from Pierre Pean and Philippe Cohen, and from their publishing house, Fayard.

The case is expected to take several months to come to court because of the slowness of the French justice system, a spokeswoman for the newspaper told BBC News Online.

The book, entitled The Hidden Face of Le Monde, accuses the paper's editorial team of bias, hypocrisy and abuse of political power.

It caused serious controversy when it was published last month and entered the bestseller lists almost straight away.

Ever since its publication, Le Monde editors have been actively trying to dispel impressions of wrongdoing, but some critics say they have failed to address some of the book's specific accusations.

'Lies and calumnies'

Le Monde, an international-minded newspaper seen as the voice of France's liberal establishment, said every page in the book was libellous.

Centre-left publication, considered highbrow
Famed for austere layout and authoritative reporting
Evening paper - appears at lunchtime in Paris, dated the following day
Founded at time of the liberation from German occupation in 1944 on General Charles de Gaulle's orders
Daily circulation of about 400,000 copies
The authors accuse managing director Jean-Marie Colombani, editor Edwy Plenel and board chairman Alain Minc of distorting information in an attempt to shape French politics and society, and cover up scandals.

"Their book accumulates mistakes, lies, defamations and calumnies, and the courts will obviously be asked to deal with them," the paper said at the time of the book's publication.

Le Monde also denied the book's claims that an "atmosphere of fear" hung over its newsroom and that it had sought to portray France in its worst possible light over the last decade.

Other accusations levelled in the book include the campaign allegedly conducted by the newspaper in favour of the 1995 presidential candidate Edouard Balladur or the defeated Socialist challenger in the 2002 race Lionel Jospin, whom Le Monde supported "like the rope supports the hanged man".

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