October 27, 2016

RSF calls for code of ethics at troubled French TV news channel

Reporters Without Borders (RF) fully supports the striking journalists at the French 24-hour TV news channel i-Télé, who have been fighting for months to defend their editorial independence, and calls for the adoption of a code of ethics without delay, in line with their demands.

It is RSF’s position that this code of ethics should be adopted by the entire Canal+ media group, of which i-Télé is part, that it should be legally binding and that it should apply to the group’s journalists, editors and managers, and to its main owner and other shareholders.

RSF has been calling for such a code of conduct for months, regarding it as the only way to force Canal+’s billionaire businessman owner, Vincent Bolloré, to respect the group’s editorial independence.

Under a law on “media freedom, independence and pluralism” that was passed at the start of this month, TV and radio stations will be required to adopt a “code of professional conduct.” RSF helped draft this law, known as the Bloch Law, and pushed hard for the inclusion of this requirement.

But the Canal+ group needs to adopt a code of ethics at once, without waiting for the Bloch Law to take effect.

“News reporting does not conform to corporate logic,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “It needs to be independent of all external parties, to be impartial and impervious to economic interests. That’s what is meant by journalistic ethics. A code of ethics for the Canal+ group will be the best way to force corporate logic to safeguard professional journalism.”

The strike at i-Télé is not about work conditions or benefits. It is a conflict between two different attitudes that are hard to reconcile, a conflict between the corporate prioritization of profit and the journalistic prioritization of the public interest.

In an open letter last month to France’s Higher Council for Broadcasting (CSA), RSF wrote that Bolloré has “repeatedly trampled on the principle of the editorial independence of news media, a pillar of our democracy.” The letter called for an “independence charter” and for “firmness” from the CSA on these issues.

In a report published last July on “oligarchs” who own media outlets, RSF reported many cases of censorship and meddling by Bolloré in the work of the Canal+ group’s journalists.

France is ranked 45th out of 180 countries in the RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.