Macron govt shows ‘worrying signs’ of hostility towards media independence - French journalists

Macron govt shows ‘worrying signs’ of hostility towards media independence - French journalists
Unions representing journalists at more than 20 French media outlets including AFP, BFMTV, Libération and Le Monde say the government of President Emmanuel Macron is showing “extremely worrying” signs of hostility towards media independence.

“Faced with the freedom to inform, the new government has chosen to pressure [media outlets],” read a statement by the chapters of the Societe des Journalistes (SDJ) association, released by AFP on Tuesday. 

The government of the newly-elected French president is sending “worrying signals” concerning “media independence” and “protection of sources,” the commentary added.

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Among the signatories were the SDJ chapters of AFP news agency and broadcasters BFMTV, France 2, Europe 1, as well as L'Express, Le Monde and L'Obs newspapers and the center-left Libération newspaper. In May, the paper called on voters to cast their ballots for Macron just hours before the pre-election ban ahead of the presidential run-off. 

The journalists’ commentary said that last week “two ministers sent extremely worrying signals regarding the way they conceive of the independence of media and the protection of sources.”

On Friday, the French Labor Ministry filed a complaint over document theft after Libération published an exclusive article featuring details of the government's plans to review the labor code.

Labor laws have been a contentious issue since spring 2016, when the government started discussing controversial reforms. It prompted numerous protests, resulting in clashes between police and demonstrators.

The government said its complaint was not aimed at the newspaper, but the French CGT national journalists' union (SNJ-CGT) said it was a “signal intended to muzzle the profession,” AFP reported.  

It was also recently reported that Justice Minister Francois Bayrou had contacted Radio France, accusing its journalists of calling his MoDem (Democratic Movement) political party members and questioning them “in an abusive way.” He branded it “harassment.” 

Shortly before Bayrou’s complaint Radio France aired an investigation, claiming that the party was suspected of having fictitious jobs in the European Parliament. 

On Friday Paris prosecutor launched a judicial investigation into the use of European parliamentary funds by Bayrou’s party.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe criticized Bayrou's statements.

“When you are a minister, you are not simply a person driven by their passions, or their irritations, or their indignation,” Philippe told broadcaster France Info news service.  

Bayrou defended his words citing freedom of speech.