Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes the determination to defend media freedom displayed by French President Emmanuel Macron in a New Year’s address to the media from the Elysée Palace on the 3rd of January, in which he alluded several times to RSF initiatives. RSF will pay close attention to full respect for journalistic freedoms in the media law reforms he outlined.
President Macron deplored violence against journalists in his speech, describing them as “favourite targets.” As RSF revealed in its annual round-up, published on 19 December, 326 journalists are currently detained worldwide and 65 were killed in 2017 in the course of their work or because of their journalism. A total of 1,035 journalists have been killed in the past 15 years, with nine out of ten of these murders going unpunished.
“We welcome the attention that President Macron is paying to the persecution of journalists,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The appointment of a special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for the protection of journalists, for which Macron again called, would constitute a strong institutional response at the international level.”
“RSF has been campaigning since 2015 for the creation of this post as a concrete mechanism for enforcing international law, and we are pleased with the initial measures taken by secretary-general Antonio Guterres, while waiting for him to go further.”
Given the gravity of the harassment of journalists and the threats to journalism in dictatorships and “illiberal democracies” such as Turkey and the People’s Republic of China, RSF urges President Macron to conduct a frank and uncompromising bilateral dialogue with his foreign counterparts on these issues. Turkey’s President Erdogan will visit France soon, after which Macron will make an official visit to China.
President Macron also referred in his speech to the problem of fake news and promised to introduce a law to combat this, especially during elections. RSF will express its view when an actual bill to this effect is drafted.
Finally, President Macron said he supported the debate about journalistic principles that RSF is organizing. After an extensive internal discussion at RSF on journalistic independence, transparency and ethics, and quality journalism, these issues were discussed at a meeting with around 30 leading media outlets, associations and unions in Brussels on 29 September. The initiative is on the agenda of the next RSF board meeting on 9 January.