French actress Catherine Deneuve has apologised to female victims of sexual assault following criticism for her signing a controversial letter that was regarded as attacking the #MeToo campaign.

The letter, which was signed by a hundred French women, including prominent writers, artists and academics, was published last week and said that the accusations against Weinstein and others have resulted in a “witch hunt” against men that is threatening sexual freedom.

“Men have been punished summarily, forced out of their jobs when all they did was touch someone’s knee or try to steal a kiss," the letter read. “Rape is a crime, but trying to seduce someone, even persistently or clumsily, is not – and nor is men being gentlemanly a chauvinist attack.”

Deneuve has since published her own letter in the newspaper Liberation in which she apologized to “victims of odious acts”, writing “I’m a free woman and I will remain one. I fraternally salute all women victims of odious acts who might have felt assaulted by the letter in Le Monde. It is to them, and them alone, that I apologise.”

She said if the open letter had in any way implied that harassment was “a good thing” she would not have lent her name to it. However she also defended her view that men are becoming victims of a “media lynching” and that the current atmosphere threatens sexual freedom. She denounced abuse of power and called for better justice against proven abusers.

“I don’t like this characteristic of our times whereby everyone feels they have the right to judge, to arbitrate, to condemn. A time where simple denunciations on social media generate punishment, resignation and sometimes, and often, lynching by the media,” she wrote.

She continued: “I don’t excuse anything. I don’t decide the guilt of these men because I am not qualified to do so. And few are… No, I don’t like this pack mentality.”