'French people don’t need Big Brother to debunk fake news for them'
If France really is a democracy, all people should be able to express their opinions, otherwise we will have the ministry of propaganda from ‘1984’ – defining what’s true and what’s not, political analyst Nikola Mirkovic says.
Following his announcement to tackle the spread of fake news, French President Emmanuel Macron is facing an unexpected backlash, with a surge in satirical fake stories appearing online.
People angered by the new legislation have started posting under the hashtag #InventYourFakeNews.
The French president told journalists in Paris on Wednesday that the country has to protect itself from outside interference.
“I have decided that we will change our legal system to protect [our] democratic life from this ‘fake news,’” Macron said. “During the election period, on the internet, content will no longer have exactly the same rules.”
RT: Some angry reaction to Macron’s plan from the public, but surely fake news is something that needs to be addressed. Macron says the move will protect democracy, strengthen French legislation. Is that fair to say that this law will do that and not have the reverse effect?
Nikola Mirkovic: No, I don’t think so. Unfortunately, when Mr. Macron speaks about fake news, he is targeting a social network. He is targeting free speech on the internet. If this really was about a law condemning fake news when he was talking to the journalists, then he should start talking to the journalists of French mainstream media who spread fake news on a daily basis. He didn’t do that. Why? Because a lot of these French mainstream media belong to oligarchs who are Mr. Macron’s friends and who put him in power: people like… Pierre Berge, who is now deceased. All supported Macron in the mainstream media during the campaign, and there was no information, there was no law against fake news at that time. Why, now that he is in power, he is not targeting mainstream media? Because they are going in the same direction as he is. He is targeting people on the way who have different opinions, who have alternative points of view, to merge with this mainstream media. I think it is totally preposterous by Emmanuel Macron to suggest something like this. This is anti-constitutional. Don’t forget that in France, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen says that freedom of speech is one of man’s most precious rights. And why would we have a president of the French Republic that should be above the Constitution, above the Declaration? And this is why a lot of French people are actually mad when they hear this.
RT: The French minister of culture recently said that the law can help protect the work of journalists. What will this law change?
NM: They are suggesting, so far, saying that during political campaigns, it will be easy to take down false information, that you can go to a judge to get an information ban from the internet, you can ban a website; people are also saying that they would stop media that would be state-sponsored from other countries from airing in France, which is actually quite crazy when you think that France has one of the major, biggest networks in the world of… state-sponsored, I would say, propaganda by Radio France International, for example, and all major countries do this. These are some of the examples that we have been hearing so far on how they can take information out of the web. And don’t forget, who is to say what fake news is or not? This is dangerous, this is actually ‘1984.’ We are going to have people who are already in power and who are going to be saying “This is true. This is not true.” This is exactly a ministry of propaganda. If we really are in a democracy, then all people should be able to express their opinions, whether they are from the left, from the right, from whatever political sensibility. Everybody has to be able to express themselves. And don’t forget that we have never had so much access to information [as we have] today. When there is fake news, if people are old enough to vote and to understand the politics of France or the world today, then they are old [enough] to get the information, to debunk fake news themselves. And they don’t need Big Brother to do that for them.
RT: In his speech on Wednesday, the French president did not mention any foreign media in particular, but he has been pressuring Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik since he was elected. What measures can Macron realistically take against foreign media?
NM: He could try, at best, a specific bill saying that foreign media would be banned in France, which would be quite crazy. This would mean a lot of foreign media, like the BBC, would be banned in France. And I think it is something which is just not possible. They do what they are doing, actually they would ban RT or Sputnik journalists from attending Macron’s press-conferences or they do something like that or they would make some specific law. They are actually capable, Macron and his team, to make a specific ban on RT and pretext some crazy story coming from the US on propaganda or foreign influence, which is, again, preposterous because a lot of the media in France today is state-owned and is already… propaganda, and the mainstream media which is not state-owned and belongs to media moguls who are friends of the elite and power today. They are capable of doing it. I think that people would react very badly if he did that.