(EUROPEAN CENTRE FOR PRESS AND MEDIA FREEDOM) French journalists and media companies are already worried that the new government of President Emanuel Macron plans curbs on their freedom.
The ability to protect confidential sources and the independence of public service broadcasting are already under pressure. And there’s anger that a government minister has personally telephoned a radio station to complain about journalists who are investigating his affairs.
In a strongly worded press release, Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) condemned the use of the so-called “Bloche law“ against Libération, the left-wing national newspaper. This law makes it a crime to receive leaked information and conceal the source, and also enables the state to prosecute persons unknown for leaking.
Libération published a story about the Labour Minister Muriel Pénicaud that was based on the leaks.
“No matter how unpleasant for the labour minister, the leaks were of undeniable interest to the public and their publication falls under the public’s right to information,”
said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk.
“It is unacceptable in a democracy that journalists can be regarded as criminal suspects just for doing their job.”
Since the press release was issued, the Minister has withdrawn the action against Libération. But the criminal case against the whistle-blower who made the leaks still stands.
Meanwhile the SNJ trade union has issued a statement deploring the action of Justice Minister François Bayrou personally phoned the head of the investigations team at a national radio station, Radio France, to complain that their journalists were “harassing” him. The SNJ statement says:
“He’s crossed a red line… To whom are the Radio France journalists accountable? The listeners, first of all. Then the magistrates, if there is an inquiry. No-one else.“
Also on the radar: reform of the broadcasting licensing laws, which would result in the merger of public service radio and television channels. Journalists from around twenty French media groups including Le Monde newspaper and the Agence France-Presse agency have expressed concern in a commentary posted on several websites about what they call “extremely worrying signs of hostility“ to the media on the part of the new government.