“In France and everywhere, RSF will do its job to the end, with impartiality, without getting drawn into political debates. The law on the independence and pluralism of information must be applied.”

At a press conference in Paris on 20 February, one week after France’s highest administrative court issued a decision on the French regulator ARCOM, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) confirmed its determination to get France to enforce its law on broadcast media pluralism and independence. Twenty lawyers have expressed their support.

RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire began the press conference by taking amusement in the outrageous reactions to the Council of State’s decision to make the  broadcasting and digital communications regulator ARCOM respect the law on broadcast media independence and pluralism. 

“We have been subjected to the most absurd accusations – Stalinism, Nazism and McCarthyism – simply for trying to get the judicial authorities to enforce a law providing for a diversity of viewpoints on TV,” Deloire said. 

RSF’s mandate is to promote journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism. “We just do our job, in France as elsewhere,” Deloire said. “We are independent of the government and the opposition, just as we are independent from financial powers. They would like to draw us into a one-sided debate, but we do not do politics and we will remain impartial.” 

“We are used to attacks, they happen in many countries,” Deloire said. “And now in France, political speeches are pushing lies to the point of presenting us as enemies of freedom of expression, and as censors who want political files kept on journalists. Welcome to Absurdistan. For our part, we are keeping our calm. The French will not let themselves be fooled.” 

Council of State decision favours diversity of opinion 

Deloire set straight the facts of the case and the relevant legislation. The decision of the Council of State, France’s administrative supreme court, does not prohibit any opinion. On the contrary, it requires ARCOM to ensure a diversity of currents of thought and opinions on all broadcast media outlets, and to ensure the independence of information. “We demand that the law be applied, and that no TV channel be allowed to cheat by preventing a diversity of opinions from being expressed. ARCOM must ensure that TV news channel CNews presents conflicting points of view and that news and information are produced within an independent environment.”

In its decision, the Council of State observes that ARCOM had not done its job. Regarding pluralism, the decision makes no mention of journalists, and simply recalls that the opinions expressed by the entirety of a programme’s participants must be diverse. Tallying politicians is not enough. In the future, it will only be possible to punish lasting and obvious imbalances, those with deliberate intention. The decision therefore favours a diversity of expression. 

“The current system has been diverted from its true purpose,” Deloire said “This method has had its day. We won in court because we demonstrated that there are appropriate systems to replace it. Academics propose greater transparency about those who speak, taking account of their known positions in the public arena ; another typology focuses on the personalities and subjects cited. European countries combine these different methods.” 

Lawyers support RSF to protect rule of law

A week after RSF’s legal counsel, Patrice Spinosi, obtained this ruling from the Council of State, 20 other lawyers of various sensibilities and backgrounds have come out in support of, or even in offering legal advice for the steps taken by RSF to get the law enforced. They are Clémence Bectarte, William Bourdon, Simon Clémenceau, Emmanuel Daoud, Victor Edou, Jessica Finelle, Marc François, Laure Heinich, Benoît Huet, Henri Leclerc, Corinne Lepage, Richard Malka, Cosima Ouhioun, Martin Pradel, Guillaume Prigent, François Saint-Pierre, Jeanne Sulzer, Dominique Tricaud, Clémence Witt and François Zimeray.

These lawyers intend to defend the position that pluralism is an objective with constitutional value, and article 34 of France’s constitution, which says that “the law establishes the rules concerning media freedom, pluralism and independence.” They will help RSF to ensure that the law is enforced in order to protect democracy. They will ensure that ARCOM develops an appropriate and realistic regulatory framework and, if necessary, they will contribute to RSF’s proposals. And they undertake to support or represent RSF if other legal action proves necessary. 

“This decision is an opportunity for ARCOM to demonstrate its effectiveness,” Deloire added. “Together with all these lawyers, we will ensure that the law is fully applied. This is a crucial battle for journalism, and you can count on us to see it through to the end, and not give up. This year there will be the European election campaign and the renewal of 15 DTT channel agreements. This is the time to enforce the law, the whole law and nothing but the law.”

24/ 180
Score : 78.72
Published on