Paris newspaperman sparks homophobia row after refusing to sell magazine with men kissing

Paris’ famed newspaper kiosks made the headlines earlier this year when one was burned down during a “yellow vest” protest and donors around the world gave thousands of euros to help its manager rebuild his business. By Rory Mulholland.

Paris newspaperman sparks homophobia row after refusing to sell magazine with men kissing
The Paris kiosk at République where the offending magazine was allegedly removed from sale. Photo: Rory Mulholland

Now the kiosks are back in the news – but this time they’re getting very bad publicity.

One kiosquier, as they are known in French, is accused of refusing to sell customers a magazine because a picture of two male water poloists kissing passionately in a swimming pool.

Mediakiosk, the company that manages all kiosks in Paris, has shut down the one in question on Place de la République, suspended its manager, and launched an enquiry into whether or not he is guilty of homophobia.

The affair began last Saturday when a customer reported going to the kiosk to buy the sporting daily L’Equipe, which at the weekend comes with a glossy magazine which in its latest edition carried the picture of the men embracing with the headline “Kiss whoever you want.”

Inside was a long article on homophobia in sport.

READ ALSO: John Lichfield to hand over €13k raised for Paris kiosk owners hit by yellow vest violence

The customer, named as Grégory Tilhac, said he asked the kiosquier for a copy, the man said he had none, but then admitted that he had not taken them out of the cardboard box they had arrived in.

“Are you homophobic?” Tilhac asked, according to an account he later published on Facebook.

“Yes,” came the alleged reply.

“Unabashed homophobia in all its horror,” wrote the customer, whose account was widely relayed on Twitter and soon came to the attention of the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.

She tweeted that it was “unacceptable” and vowed to do all she could to battle “homophobic acts and words”.

Mediakiosk, which runs the kiosk, told France Info radio that it would conduct an inquiry into what happened and would question the kiosquier on Tuesday, but said that the kiosquier in question had rejected the allegations.

Deputy Paris mayor Olivia Polski said he had been suspended.

The alleged incident comes after a series of homophobic attacks in the French capital, with a spike last autumn in assaults that gained a lot of media coverage partly because some victims decided to share their experience with a photograph of their injuries on social media.

The increase in attacks on homosexuals over the past year in France, where gay marriage has been legal since 2013, led to the country dropping a whopping 11 places in just a year in an annual gay travel index.

The Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2019 puts France in 17th place, down from sixth place a year ago.


The kiosk that sparked the latest controversy was closed when The Local went to visit it on Monday, but the owners of other kiosks on the vast Place de la République had plenty to say on the subject.

“He has no right to try and censor things like that. I see men kissing on the footpath in front of my kiosk and that is their business,” said the kiosquier whose newspaper stand is directly opposite the one at the centre of the minor media storm. He did not want his name published.

Kamel, another kiosquier on the square, said he thought his colleague might be the innocent victim of a plot to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment, even if he wasn’t sure that the accused man was a Muslim.

“It’s the gay lobby that wants people to talk about it,” he said,

Porn mags are on open display in most kiosks in Paris.

He said that he couldn’t believe the man could be so stupid as to refuse to sell L’Equipe.

“He’s a businessman, It would not be in his interest,” he said, arguing that the kiosquier most likely sold porn mags so it would be unlikely that he would refuse to sell a magazine that merely showed two gay men kissing.

The Local could not verify that the shuttered kiosk at République did indeed sell porn, but all four other kiosks visited at random stocked a wide selection of sex magazines with naked women in lascivious positions on the front page.

The kiosk at the centre of the controversy in question lies about 20 metres away from a gym that is popular with the gay community.

Benoit Dufrene, 46, a part-time Parisian who breeds dogs in Burgundy, said he was shocked by reports that the kiosquier had refused to sell the L’Equipe magazine.

”It’s obvious that we need to fight to make sure that homophobic acts such as these stop happening,” he said.


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‘You’re better off sleeping in your car’: How Paris is plagued by scourge of bed bugs

The bed bug infestation that is worsening across France has left hoteliers and residents in Paris struggling to find a remedy to a problem that leaves them often out of pocket and out of home.

'You're better off sleeping in your car': How Paris is plagued by scourge of bed bugs
Photos: AFP

If the last thing on your mind when staying at a glitzy Paris hotel is having to worry about getting bitten by critters, think again. 

A Paris hotel group head has admitted that even high-end hotels in the French capital are affected by a pest infestation that’s getting worse across France. 

France’s bed bug problem has seen the number of cases go from 180,000 to 400,000 in just two years.

In 2018 alone, there were 100,000 bed bug infestations in Paris, according to the French Union for Pest Control (CS3D), a scourge that is now also affecting the capital's hotel industry. 

As one TripAdvisor user commented about their stay in a Paris hotel last November: “Bed bugs, no handling of the matter and no treatment. You’re better off sleeping in your car”.

“It’s traumatizing hotel managers, we talk about it among ourselves, but timidly” Jean-Marc D'Orx, general president of Ile-de-France’s Hotel Union, told Le Parisien.

“The hotelier is a victim in this kind of case. It's not that the hotel is dirty, but it has welcomed people who have brought the bed bugs with them.

“When a room is infested, you have to change all the bedding, the mattress, the bed frame, it can cost anywhere from €300 to €10,000 depending on the category of the hotel.

Aside from these big financial losses (not fully covered by insurance according to D’Orx) and the effect bed bugs can have on a hotel’s reputation, hotel managers also have to close their establishment until new beds have been delivered and pest controls carried out.

In fact, since 2018 any landlord with a rental property in France that’s found to have bed bugs or any other parasite infestation (cockroaches, rats etc), has to cease letting it out, or face a fine of €50,000 to €100,000 for not doing so.

“In Canada, pest control treatments are mandatory when a tenant departs, but unfortunately this is not the case in France,” French housing and social inclusion group Si Toit Lien told Le Monde.

This has resulted in countless unwitting tenants in France having to deal with a serious health and housing problem from the moment they move into their new home.

According to the French Union for Pest Control, 92 percent of French people have at some point found pests in their homes. 

But bed bugs – called ‘punaises de lit’ in French – aren’t just being found in beds.

“It’s horrible, even when you’re sure they’re gone you see them everywhere,” a north American reader in Paris who asked to remain anonymous told The Local.

“The cinemas have a problem with them so you start avoiding places.

“You throw out everything that’s part of your bed including the mattress, even though they say all you need to do is wash beddings at 90degrees and it should be fine.

“The pest control guy I got was great. It cost €450 for him to come three times to fumigate. The main problem at my place was the carpet.

“So on top of the cost of fumigation there’s also the expense of staying a night or several nights at a hotel, which often has to happen.

“The fumigator told me bed bugs were by far his biggest business, way above cockroaches and mites, and that he couldn’t keep up with demand despite not advertising.

“The French blame Americans for bringing them over…I got them from an American friend who travels a lot. Bastard.”

The Local's Paris based editor Ben McPartland said: “A neighbour in my block just dumped their mattress in the street after realising it was teaming with bed bugs. They were everywhere. It was stomach-churning.”

Bed bugs are 7mm-long insects that feed on human blood, usually at night. Their bites can result in skin rashes, allergic reactions and psychological trauma for the person trying to sleep.

After having almost disappeared in the 1950s, bed bugs (Latin name Cimex lectularius) have proliferated in France in recent years.

READ MORE: Are American's really behind the bed bug explosion in Paris?