He Was Hiding From Charlie Hebdo Gunmen. Now He Wants French Media to Pay for Revealing His Location.
Lilian Lepère hid for eight hours from Said and Cherif Kouachi, the gunmen responsible for deadly attacks in January. But did French media compromise his safety during the ordeal?
Lilian Lepère was at work in a printing factory north of Paris in January when the building was stormed by the gunmen responsible for slaughtering 12 people at the offices of satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The graphic designer hid under a sink, texted police to alert them of his location, and emerged unharmed eight hours later. The suspects, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, were killed by French special forces.
More than seven months later, the ordeal is far from over: Lepère is accusing French media outlets of endangering his life by revealing in real-time that a civilian might be on site when the brothers were likely unaware he was there.
And on Tuesday, French daily newspaper le Parisien reported that Lepère is suing the networks and Paris’s prosecutor’s office has opened an official investigation into his complaints.
According to French daily le Monde, Yves Albarello, a member of the French National Assembly, was the first to reveal on RMC, a French radio station, that someone was hiding from the gunmen inside the printing plant. Other media outlets, including France 2 and TF1 followed up on Albarello’s claims, and Lepère’s sister reportedly confirmed the reports. Lepère claims the new outlets acted imprudently by broadcasting his whereabouts because the brothers could have accessed the reports.
Lepère’s lawyer told le Parisien that the decision to reveal his presence could have cost Lepère his life. “Divulging this information in real time, while the armed and determined Kouachi brothers were probably following the TV coverage themselves, put Lilian at risk,” he said.
The probe by French investigators is not the only legal action being taken against media outlets for their coverage during three days of attacks that terrorized France in January. Six shoppers who hid in a walk-in freezer at the Paris kosher grocery store targeted by gunman Amedy Coulibaly are now suing BFM TV for broadcasting police activity around the supermarket in real time, and reporting that the gunman may not have been aware of some people hiding inside. Coulibaly, who in a video pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and claimed to have coordinated with the Kouachi brothers, held shoppers hostage and killed four Jewish customers at the Paris market.
And it’s not just French media that’s taken a hit for its coverage in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. In January, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said she planned to sue Fox News after a host and a commentator featured on the news network claimed as fact that France and other European countries housed “no-go zones” where Muslims practice sharia law.
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