In response to criticism from French media groups and journalists’ associations about an apparent attempt by President Emmanuel Macron’s aides to decide which journalists accompany him on trips, the French president’s office wrote to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) today to reaffirm its full respect for media freedom.
The aim of the misunderstood initiative by the Elysée Palace (the president’s office) was more openness and inclusiveness, not less, the letter insisted. President Macron “attaches great importance to in-depth media coverage and wants to open the Elysée to specialist reporters (‘beat reporters’), who will cover the president’s activities from a different angle,” the letter said. “This is why it was suggested to news organizations that they should add defence and diplomacy correspondents,” to those assigned to cover President Macron’s official visit today to the French troops based in Mali,” the letter said.
“Reporters Without Borders sought clarification from the Elysée after a series of signals that caused concern in many news organizations,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We welcome this explanation and the desire for dialogue with news organizations and we hope that proof will be provided in the coming days that no limits will be imposed on the media’s reporting. We count on Emmanuel Macron to defend media freedom in both France and abroad.”
The Elysée’s letter said that, “in the course of organizing the official visit [to Mali], we did not sufficiently explain this concern [for openness], hence the [mis]interpretation and concerns that arose in the past few days.” The letter added that there was no question of the Elysée choosing journalists. “We gave news organizations this option but we never imposed one journalist rather than another (...) The journalists who became concerned may be reassured: the Elysée does not intend to do the newsroom’s job.”
The general secretary of President Macron’s “En Marche” movement delivered a powerful statement of support for media freedom on Macron’s behalf on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day. It is now up to president’s office to put these words into action.
France is ranked 39th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.