FRANCE: France’s Amendments to the EU Media Freedom Act Spark Concerns About Press Freedom

Extract from article by Alina Liebholz, published on IMPAKTER on 21/06/2023 – accessible here.

During a Council meeting today, European Union (EU) Deputy Permanent Representatives passed the final approval of amendments to the European Media Freedom Act.

The Media Freedom Act was proposed by the Commission in September 2022 and aimed to protect media pluralism and independence in the EU. 

The initial draft law stated that governments were not allowed to “detain, sanction, intercept, conduct surveillance, or search and seizure” journalists to reveal their sources unless it is necessary for the “public interest.”

The Amendments to the Media Freedom Act

It has been reported that France, among other EU member states, was seeking an exemption to the Act’s Article 4 general ban on deploying spyware against journalists and their sources for national security reasons.

In addition, Paris is said to have pushed for more extensive exemptions for intelligence agencies to use spying technologies, such as installing spyware on reporters’ phones.

The initial proposal was designed to safeguard the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, with the exception of specific serious crimes listed by the Commission. However, France has pushed for broader exemptions to account for member nations’ security and defence prerogatives.

In an open letter to the Deputy Permanent Representatives meeting today, 65 civil society and journalists organisations have voiced their concerns about the EU Media Freedom Act amendments. Still, the proposals for the act were approved.