Blog AnalysisFundamental rights

[Analysis] Between discriminatory public aid and restrictions on the work of journalists, the freedom to inform is called into question (v2)

(B2) We can proclaim in every tone that freedom of the press is essential. And that the diversity of the press must be preserved. It still needs to be implemented in a concrete way, particularly at the economic level…

Media waiting in the courtyard of the Elysée © NGV / Archives B2 – August 2017

Restricted freedom of information

Accessing information has become more difficult in these times of the Covid-19 health crisis. As restaurants and cinemas reopen, restrictions for the press remain. Press conferences are kept to a strict minimum. When they exist, they only bring together a handful of journalists, responsible, in the best case scenario, for collecting and relaying questions from their colleagues (this is the system of pool). Most often, they are replaced by videoconferences or briefs » phone calls.

What could be easier than simply ignoring an annoying question asked on a WhatsApp loop or in a Teams conversation? Or simply to refuse a journalist to attend a briefing (NB: under false technical pretexts, as the Élysée knows how to do so well). Some organizations simply refuse live questions, or even questions at all. Another now well-established habit: the “extended microphone” at the end of a trip or a meeting leaves room, once again, for only a very limited number of questions, and makes it possible to cut short the first opportunity. Creating and maintaining a network also becomes more difficult.

However, to ask questions freely, to ask for details, to follow up to obtain clarification, to allow oneself to doubt an affirmation...: as much as it is possible to maintain the link with a source by telephone when the relationship is already well established, as much it can become tricky to gather sensitive or unpublished information from a person you have never even met...

The various professional associations of journalists have just sent a letter to the French authorities to protest against the restrictions on freedom of information. “ The health situation certainly justifies caution, but it also offers some people the opportunity to limit access to information the French deserve to be able to access free and quality information “, they criticize.

Discriminating aids

Another element, more economical. According to the latest figures revealed by the The letter a, the French government, via public aid to the press, has rather helped the concentration of media groups than their diversity. Thus, of the 87 million euros in direct aid to the press (excluding aid to the AFP and exemption from social charges) in 2019, 49 million euros, or more than half, was paid to ten groups only. A single group, LVMH (Le Parisien, Les Echos, Investir, etc.), alone capitalizes 16,8 million euros. Followed, further afield, by Le Figaro and Le Monde (1).

Distortion of competition seriously harms pluralism

« Such a disproportion in the distribution of aid constitutes a harmful distortion of competition between media questions indicates the SPIIL (Syndicate of the independent press of information on line, to which belongs B2 (2)). " Of these 87 million euros, more than 75 million euros relate exclusively to the printed press due to the very nature of the aid, which excludes the online press. Which is contradictory with the desire to develop digital technology. The SPIL “ calls for an emergency rebalancing for the year 2021 and an overhaul of press aid ».

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read the full press release here

  1. Figures that the French Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot refused to give to our colleagues. In total contradiction with previous practice. The figures are certainly available, but buried deep in a public database So impossible to find, unless there is a fierce desire...
  2. Let us point out that B2 did not receive a cent of subsidy (nor made a request for that matter)

Article supplemented with the elements of the letter sent by the associations of journalists

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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