Mr President, Madam President of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, dear Mrs TabarotMonsieur the Rapporteur Patrick BlocheMesdames and Members of the European Parliament,
Saying without harm, showing without shock, testifying without aggression,
denounce without condemnation”, these are the main commitments inscribed
in the preamble of the editorial charters of the largest French daily. If
I quote the newspaper Ouest-France - I could obviously quote from
many other publications -, it is that each news media
has a specific DNA consisting of a history, a culture, a
to its unique and inimitable readers that it has a duty to preserve.
In journalistic jargon, this is called the “reading contract”. This
is not simply a word or formula of circumstance, it is to
the identity and specificity of all media. It is this
that the public sanction when it grants or withdraws its trust in those who
respect or neglect the contract. I am convinced that this
positive constraint, this intimate and permanent relationship between the journalist and
its audience is at the heart of the creativity of the
general. It is by referring to these values, the basis of any relationship of
trust between the editorial and its public that the media can evolve
and adapt without losing their soul.
The text you are proposing to us today is
deprive each media of its specificity, its history, its
this contract of reading always current and often shaped with time. It
proposes to generalize to all media companies what emerges from the
area of internal and individual responsibility of each director of
publication: namely the conformity of the writing with the editorial charter
of his diary.
The text you are proposing leads, ladies and gentlemen,
two main dead ends:
- An ethical and professional impasse
- An economic and legal impasse
An ethical and professional impasse first in so far as it does not
is nothing less than authoritatively confiscating the conversation
with the public
Being a journalist, in fact, means above all having a conversation with
public. This conversation is based on a relationship of trust that
It is impossible to imagine that this conversation, which
only the public is the arbitrator and the judge, be forfeited authority for the benefit of the
editorial team. This would be an arbitrary power that
may, if necessary, change the audience in case it does not correspond to
its deep aspirations, in defiance of the contract and the pact between
journalists and their readers.
Obviously, it is my duty and responsibility to be vigilant
to preserve the independence and “freedom to inform” journalists,
but this duty is accompanied by special attention
the “freedom to be informed” of the public. Paradoxically,
while the text you are proposing seeks to defend the
freedom and independence of information, I fear it misses its target
with effects you can’t measure.
Confiscation of this freedom in favour of an established editorial team
authority could be in our country causing the decline; all of the
less, weakening a certain opinion press based on the
conversation and listening to its audience. If the need for debate arises, this
must be part of the individual structures of each
media, with respect for its history, traditions and culture.
In this context, it does not seem to me justified for the legislator to interfere
in a debate that is solely about professional ethics, as it is
the case elsewhere. In the vast majority of countries, where
journalists, where they exist, play a just advisory role.
With regard to the internal organization of the news media, freedom of expression
must prevail. It is desirable and recommended that they not
are not accountable to government.
The role of journalists' societies has changed significantly since its inception
of the first society of editors to become shareholder of the newspaper
Le Monde in 1951. Today, they are a place of dialogue and
consultation; they are also a place to watch over
the independence of the media and respect for journalistic ethics.
The example of the newspaper Le Parisien/ Aujourd'hui in France and fear
felt by journalists when it was announced for sale, hypothesis
is a perfect example of this development. This fear has
urged the journalists' society to draft a charter for the future
This charter was to serve as a basis for dialogue between the
journalists and potential candidates for the newspaper’s acquisition. It
around four principles:
- the newspaper is and must remain a major popular and generalist daily newspaper of
- it must retain its national and regional character,
- it must maintain its editorial policy of political neutrality and
proximity to its readership,
- finally, it must maintain its staff, which guarantees its editorial quality.
In general, it is clear that this is a period of
crisis, due to differences of conception, due to the dismissal of a
employee, also due to a change in effective management or
feared that these companies would be created. Alongside the organizations
representative of the staff, they play a role of monitoring and
There is therefore no single model and it is difficult to know
exactly how many. It’s that flexibility, and that ability
adaptation to the individual circumstances that make them strong. Organize
uniformly these realities, not only betray their spirit,
it also weakens their ability to adapt.
Le Monde, Les Echos, Le Parisien, Paris-Match have found their point
balance around societies with different purposes and prerogatives,
Ouest-France has found its own without a society of journalists. What is
the objective sought by the proposed law if not to limit freedom
each company and its employees to organize themselves according to
his own needs?
It seems obvious to me that depending on the nature of the press title, its periodicity,
its history, its culture, its needs are different. The
Doctor, Science and Future, or the magazine They each have their
own Society of Journalists. In the specialized press, the constraints
and the way in which they are organized are certainly
different nature: denying this difference would be unfamiliar with the requirements
to each news organization. I would like to quote a
example to highlight the multiplicity of ways to explore to ensure
the honesty and independence of the press.
For financial journalists, a special mechanism has been put in place,
on the basis of the law of 26 July 2005 for trust and
modernization of the economy. Media outlets that adhere to
the dedicated association undertake to respect a code of conduct and
are therefore not subject to the rules of common law
the Autorité des marchés financiers.
In general, practice has thus given rise to several types of
internal mechanisms to ensure the editorial independence of
journalists. These mechanisms are mainly part of four
the establishment of editorial boards;
the participation of journalists in the share capital of the press company;
the elaboration of ethical charters;
contractual provisions in the company’s articles of association or who
accompanying (shareholder agreements, foundations).
These different means are not exclusive to each other. In the
in the field of professional ethics, it is a question of being tailor-made and
to act on a case-by-case basis, in other words to prefer the
finesse” to the “mind of geometry”.
This bill also leads to an economic impasse and
with the confiscation of the publisher’s liability.
In the eyes of the law and the public, it is the publication director who is
responsible. Organize within the company a counter-power with
responsibility, this would make the exercise of this responsibility illegitimate
which implies duties but also rights. Without assuming the
risk characterized by financial participation in the economy of
the company, the editorial team thus legalized would benefit from a weight
over the operational and strategic directions of
The independence and freedom of expression of journalists are at the heart of
our republican pact; it is a cardinal value, a principle with value
constitutional. In the face of the explosion of contents and the bombardment
that accompany the digital age, these principles are more than
ever current: the public needs clear benchmarks, it needs a
independent, credible and professional speech.
But the proposal put forward by MP Patrick Bloche seems
the functioning of most of the
press companies. It underestimates or even despises the status
professional journalist, torn from long struggle in the 1930s,
which the French trade union organisations still pride themselves on
today. She underestimates – and this is less surprising – the role
the shareholder to whom it lends the world’s worst intentions. In
summoning the occult powers or the power of money, it reduces
the shareholder of a press group or media group to be only one
funding window. A shareholder is not just that, Mr. Le
MP Patrick Bloche is also an economic actor that benefits from
property rights and is able to defend the principles of good
governance. This obliges him not only vis-à-vis the employees of the group
but also vis-à-vis readers and the public.
In other words, this project weakens the internal cohesion of the company.
By giving writing exorbitant powers, it will add confusion to the
will create the conditions for a gap of misunderstanding for the
entrepreneurs and investors. Now more than ever, there is a need
strong and sustainable investments. The press must find a new
new models to ensure its
independence, diversity and pluralism in a media landscape
at a time when the press needs to strengthen its funds. The
The worst thing would be for the law to act as a deterrent for investors.
I should also like to mention the Act of 1881, passed at the time of the
“Conquering Republic”, that of Gambetta, that of Jules Ferry. It
provides for a cascading liability regime for press offences.
Since the publication director is considered the lead author, it is
its criminal and even civil liability, which will be the first to be incurred. A
failure to do so, the author of the article bears the responsibility and third
the printer. This liability regime is also applicable
It is the responsibility of the Director of Publication to influence the
editorial line of the media he directs. He alone can decide, in accordance with
journalists of its editorial, to create a society of journalists. Except
to evolve this accountability regime, it is not up to the
legislator to impose on it the obligation to share the definition of the line
editorial. Even though he alone will bear the risks,
in criminal law, this would be an unacceptable logic of the
The legal recognition of the drafting process leads de facto to a
the authoritarian deviation of the editor of the editorial project, which he fully assumes
legal and economic risk. Like the President of the Republic
recalled it on 23 January 2009 at the end of the Press Conference
This is neither desirable nor acceptable.
The draft text dissolves personal responsibility, which is a principle
of public law. By claiming to defend a «pseudo-collective freedom» in
organizing a collective responsibility, it sets up, as the
remarks the president of the Syndicat de la Presse Magazine d'Opinion, a
«system of collective guilt».
The bill tabled by Members Bloche and Françaix will give rise to
strong internal opposition. It risks depriving
the press and its public of any progress in
Editorial Charters and Code of Ethics that the sector needs so much.
Since the publication there is a draft code of ethics, we see the
difficulties for the profession to agree on the terms of this code.
I hope that it will be implemented, as it is clear that it will be
the origin of the revival of confidence essential to the reconquest of
readers. The adoption of your proposal, Members, is no
Only one stop is dangerous venom.
A quality press must above all rely on teams
quality editorial. To attract them, it is important to benefit from
interesting media, attractive working conditions and editorial
adequate resources. That is why it is fundamental that
both the editor and the editor give a large place to a debate
quality of their media. The current framework is in this regard
satisfactory, judging by the number but also the dynamism of
societies of journalists in our country. Their development is not a
A sign of regression, on the contrary, it is a sign of awareness.
The profession is organized to defend its ethical values and
ethical, with respect for the particularisms of each company
media. These values are not incompatible with sensitivity
editorial of the management teams: jointly assumed, they
strengthen media outlets; shared, they feed the
business and sector dynamism.
I also see in this bill that several
collateral damage involving the professional status of
journalists and the balance of social dialogue in the company
The honesty and independence of the press do not lie only in
in those of his direction but also in the conscience of the journalist
who retains his freedom of judgment and decision with respect to the newspaper
in which he collaborates.
Journalist’s status allows him to stop collaborating with a media outlet
information of which he no longer shares the views. When buying a security of
press, it may use its assignment clause. If it considers that there has been a
significant change in the character or orientation of the journal, it may
use one’s conscience clause. I appreciate the difficulties of using
in practice. It should only apply to
changes in the newspaper’s editorial line. In 1996, the
However, the Council of State acknowledged that any significant change in
the orientation of the newspaper created a situation that would adversely affect
moral interests of journalists.
It is this desire to guarantee the independence of the journalist that has led to
In 1935, the legislature introduced a statute far removed from ordinary law.
When a journalist requests to benefit from either its assignment clause,
or the conscience clause, he benefits from a regime similar to that
termination of employment, including severance pay.
He probably escaped his authors only by associating the team
editorial responsibility for the editorial orientation of the company,
At the same time, the bill destroys one of the foundations of the statute
French journalists. How can we imagine in these conditions
that a journalist may use the protective and derogatory regime
of the conscience clause, while being directly involved in
the collective elaboration of the editorial line?
This proposal is also dangerous in another way: the
destabilization of the historical balances of paritarism. It is indeed more
to avoid imposing by law internal structures that
may eventually enter into direct competition with the institutions
employee representatives (staff representatives, works council,
group committee), without having the same framework
functioning or the same legitimacy.
While it claims to guarantee the independence of information and
media, principle with constitutional value, this proposed law could
narrowing it, imposing a single model instead of
let each media choose the governance best suited to its history,
its shareholding, or its editorial positioning.
May I remind you, ladies and gentlemen, that the law
provides mechanisms to ensure pluralism and diversity of
the French press.
Provisions of ordinary merger control law
apply to the media sector. The Autorité de la concurrence
control of concentrations as was the case during the
repurchase of Les Echos by the LVMH group. Moreover, the law of the 1st
August 1986 reform of the legal regime of the press
foreign - non-Community or
non nationals of a State having concluded a specific bilateral agreement
with France - in French press companies. The
similar provisions exist for enterprises in the sector
For all the reasons I have mentioned, the Government cannot
be in favour of a bill that intends to create new obligations
the burden of publishers and contributes to reducing rather than strengthening
the independence of journalists and their status.
As you can see, Members of the House, ethics remain the
only legitimate avenue of intervention for editors' societies
The only legitimate and credible space between representative organisations
management is responsible for ethics. This
is neither an incantation nor a pious wish: it is an objective and a requirement
in order to regain the public’s trust over the long term. That’s the reason
for which I again call on all representative organizations
to study carefully the conditions under which they could
adopt the draft Code of Ethics drafted a year ago by the committee
led by Bruno Frappat. I also welcome the initiative
of one of the major trade unions, the
Professional Press Opinion Magazine (SPPMO), who made the decision
to annex this draft code to its statutes, leaving the responsibility
from its implementation and its individual development to the care of each
press company. It is a position of balance and wisdom: it is a
position I share both letter and spirit.
This bill also includes, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Members of Parliament, a component aimed at establishing enhanced
transparency, in particular of shareholdings, of press companies.
This point was also proposed by the President of the Republic
in his closing address to the Press Assembly on 23
January 2009. It envisaged that the transparency of
share ownership of press companies in order to strengthen the confidence of
The Government is therefore entirely in favour of this direction.
However, in so far as the
of the communication of the Senate introduced by amendment such
provisions in the proposed law to simplify and improve
the quality of the law presented by the chairman of your Law Commission,
Mr Jean-Luc WARSMANN, I can only ask for his rejection
I want to be clear: that’s the only reason I’m voting
against this aspect of the bill. We cannot
not allow us to have provisions of similar scope that
In addition, the Commission is currently examining two texts in parallel.
I would like to conclude by stressing that the
debate on the independence and pluralism of the media can sometimes lead
to pitfalls. As I tried to show, to want to legislate too much,
to regulate, to regulate, one leads to the opposite effect to the initial objective
established. The independence of the media and journalists is a legacy
historically won, a constitutionally guaranteed value, a
ethically defined: it must be protected and guaranteed – that’s all
the meaning of public aid to companies and press groups – it does not
must not be complicated and disciplined. This is the conception of journalism
and the media that the Government intends to defend. It is based on three
principles: the freedom of the publisher, the individual responsibility of the journalist,
respect for the singular dialogue between the latter and his audience. In other
terms, we prefer the requirement of an “ethics of responsibility”
(Max Weber) to the easy rhetoric of irresponsibility.