French journalists suspended over alleged cyberbullying

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PARIS (AP) — At least five French journalists have been suspended from their jobs for allegedly harassing people online with sexist, homophobic and racist insults that were coordinated through a private Facebook group.

France's Liberation newspaper and cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles said this week they suspended four of their journalists, including the creator of the Facebook group.

Called "League of LOL", its members included publicists and communication designers, as well as journalists, in Paris. French media have dubbed it a "boys club", a reference to male-dominated groups that demean others to prove strength.

One more journalist and two other group members also were suspended by their employers. Two more quit their jobs as a wave of indignation over the men's actions roiled France.

Liberation reported last week that League of LOL members allegedly posted the insults between 2009 and 2012. The Facebook group had about 30 members, the overwhelming majority of them men.

In recent days, female journalists and others have publicly accused group members of cyberbullying.

The publishing director of Liberation, Laurent Joffrin, said in a column the "shameful" actions that have been alleged made him nauseous. He denounced "harassment, insults, salacious pranks — all kind of digital aggressions."

Journalist Vincent Glad, who began the group in 2009, said he "owes apologies" to all those who were harassed. In a text on his Twitter account, he says "I've created a monster that went out of control." He has been suspended by Liberation.

Glad wrote that he now feels "now horrified to see one of my tweets from 2013 where I joked about rape culture. I am ashamed."

David Doucet, the editor in chief of Les Inrockuptibles' website, acknowledged on his Twitter account of being the author of two prank phone calls to a producer of science videos, Florence Porcel.

Porcel says she was the target of a pornographic photo mashup and a phone call from people who posed as prominent TV producers offering her a job, then put a recording of the call online to humiliate her.

Other Twitter users, both men and women, said they repeatedly received repeated posts and photomontages that mocked their ethnic backgrounds, physical appearance or political opinions.

French anti-racist organization SOS Racisme called for a judicial investigation. It said in a statement it reported the alleged facts to Paris prosecutors.

Separately, the Le Monde media group said Monday that three journalists from the French HuffPost news site —in which the group owns a stake— were fired in the fall for making "unacceptable comments in a professional environment" on Slack, a workplace messaging app.

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