Can a City Sue a TV Channel for Defamation?

Anne Hidalgo: 'The image of Paris has been prejudiced' (AP photo)
Anne Hidalgo: ‘The image of Paris has been prejudiced’ (AP photo)

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has said she plans to sue Fox News for a broadcast that described parts of the French capital as “no-go zones” for non-Muslims. But is it possible for a city to take out a libel action against a TV channel, asks Thomas Dahlhaus?

Deputy mayor Patrick Klugman confirmed to the BBC on Wednesday that the mayor was “definitely serious” and that action would be taken “in the coming days”.

Fox News had rubbed salt into the wounds of the Charlie Hebdo attack, he said, by spreading “totally fake, false information” about the city – including popular tourist areas such as Montmartre.

“It was like a pain after the pain to be insulted by such a lack of fact-checking in broadcasts all over the world,” he said.

Legal experts, he added, were currently deciding whether to bring the action in New York or Paris.

A number of legal experts have chorused that the case would be a non-starter in a US court.

“I believe there is no cause of action in the United States, period,” Jane Kirtley, a media law professor at the University of Minnesota, told the Reuters news agency.

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