Mr President, Mr President of the Committee on Culture, Mr Jacques Delors, Mr Jean-Pierre Leleux, Honourable Senators,
Today you are considering a bill that has been debated and
rejected by the National Assembly on 23 November.
The examination of this text in the High Assembly gives me the opportunity
to reiterate my commitment to freedom of information and
guarantees that must be given to journalists to exercise their
within the framework of this fundamental freedom. However, for
very specific reasons that I will present to you, I am not in favour of
the adoption of a provision to recognize legal independence
drafting as per the proposed law that you us
Since the end of the Second World War, publishing companies have
or journalists - the name varies and there is also sometimes talk of advice
or editorial board - are created, often at the request of
and accepted by the publisher, according to terms and with
various skills, within the press titles, but also in
the audiovisual media sector.
Their creation is often due to differences of opinion between the
a press title, its publisher or owner, or in order to protect
attempts to take over. The role
has greatly evolved since the creation of the first
of editors who became shareholder of the newspaper Le Monde in 1951.
Today, they are a place for dialogue and consultation; they are
also a place to watch over respect for the independence of the media and
respect for journalistic ethics.
French law, like the positive law of most of our partners
of the European Union, has no obligation to create
Company of editors or journalists within the news media.
It does not prevent their creation where both journalists and
publishers wish it.
Many press titles have editors' companies.
With regard to the internal organization of the news media, freedom of expression
must reign. And it is in my eyes, absolutely
It is legitimate that they are not accountable to the public authorities.
There are a variety of models adapted to each case
Societies of editors created in the fifties or sixties
wished to acquire shares in the company
owner of the publication in order to influence the definition of the line
The example already mentioned of the newspaper Le Monde is significant in this regard.
If it originally held a little less than 30% of the capital, from
in 1968, it owned 40%. The recent recapitalisation of the newspaper
the distribution of capital since the society of the world’s editors, who
is no longer a majority shareholder. The difficulties
of the Le Monde group and the fear of bankruptcy have prompted
the society of editors to search, from the beginning of 2010, for
investors willing to participate in the recapitalisation of the security.
In order to discuss with potential interested investors, the various
shareholders - companies of editors, employees and
readers - were organized within a Group Independence Division
Le Monde, guarantor of the founding values of the title. Since
the title has an ethics and ethics committee, responsible for
ensure compliance with the internal charter, which notably defines the rights
and the duties of shareholders, journalists and
group. If the society of the World’s editors no longer has a right
the appointment of the Chairman of the Executive Board of the Group, it has
retain the right to object to the appointment of the director of the title. In
in addition, the “Pôle d’indépendance du groupe Le Monde” is mandatory
consulted on any change of shareholders and then has the opportunity to
take control of the group or find a new investor.
To illustrate my point, I would like to take the example of the newspaper Le
Paris/ Today in France and the fear felt by the
journalists at the announcement of its possible sale, hypothesis
now out of the way. This fear prompted the journalists' society to
draft a charter for the future buyer. This charter was to serve
dialogue between journalists and potential candidates for the
It was to be structured around four points:
- 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, or internal to the newspaper due to differences in design,
choice of editorials, dismissal of an employee, or external linked to a
change in effective management or feared that these companies would be created.
Together with the staff representative organisations, they play
faith a watchful and guarantor role.
There is therefore no single model and it is difficult to know
number. 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,
their ability to adapt. In the area of
professional ethics, it is about being tailor-made and acting on the case
It is therefore a question, ladies and gentlemen, of preserving the
specificity of each medium
This flexibility is their strength. It would disappear if these structures
were organized by the texts, in an almost uniform way whatever
the media, regardless of its specificities, its history, its
balance achieved after many years.
It seems obvious to me that depending on the nature of the press title or its
needs are different. I note that most of the
time, when I hear about a society of journalists, it is a
political and general information title, where the definition of the editorial line
is essential. For the specialized press, if the editorial line has a
obvious importance, it is not as prominent as in a media
In practice, a number of internal mechanisms have emerged which
ensure the editorial independence of journalists. These
mechanisms revolve around four means that are not exclusive
- the establishment of editors' associations;
- Participation of journalists in the company’s share capital;
- development of ethical charters;
- the contractual provisions in the company’s statutes or which they are
accompanying (shareholder agreements, foundations).
For financial journalists, a special mechanism has been put in place,
on the basis of the law of 26 July 2005 on trust and
modernization of the economy: in accordance with the European
2003 on investment recommendations, this
self-regulatory legislation provides for the creation of a professional association
dedicated. The press bodies that belong to this association are committed
to respect a code of conduct drawn up by the said association and
are therefore not subject to the rules of common law
the Autorité des marchés financiers.
I cite this example to show you that many ways are
that can be explored to ensure honesty and independence
information. It is precisely this diversity of modes of intervention
which seems to me the best way to guarantee solutions adapted to
In most cases, flexible formulae are also used abroad
are retained and, where binding provisions are provided for,
they are the fruit of history, as is the case in Portugal.
The current law preserves the independence of journalists through a
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 was this desire to guarantee the independence of the journalist that 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.
It escaped its editors that by associating the editorial team with the
responsibility for the editorial orientation of the company, the proposed law
destroys one of the foundations of the status of journalists
French. How can we imagine in these conditions that a journalist
may have recourse to the protective and derogation provisions of the
awareness, while being directly involved in the development
collective of the editorial line?
This restrictive bill does not take into account the reality of
companies and can lead them to a dead end
While it claims to guarantee the independence of the media, the
constitutional value, this proposed law could
limit this independence, by imposing a single model instead of
let each media choose the most appropriate modes of governance,
according to its history, its shareholding, its positioning
On the contrary, the text you are presenting today proposes
dispossess each media of its specificity, its principles, its
history. Each information medium has a specific DNA
consisting of a unique history, culture, relationship to its readers and
that it has a duty to preserve. In journalistic jargon, we
call it the “reading contract”. It’s not just a word or
on the contrary, a formula of circumstance is what makes identity and
of all media. This is what the public sanctions when it
grants or withdraws trust to those who respect or otherwise
neglect the contract. I am convinced that this positive constraint, this
an intimate and permanent relationship between the journalist and his audience
the creativity of the press and the media in general. It
generalize to all media companies what emerges from the field of
internal and individual responsibility of each publication director, to
know how the editorial team complies with the editorial charter of its newspaper.
The text you are proposing leads to a double impasse:
- First, an ethical and professional impasse in so far as it does not
is nothing less than the authoritarian confiscation of dialogue
between an editor and his public. The confiscation of this
freedom for an established editorial team of authority could
in our country at the origin of the decline; at least the weakening
a certain press of opinion based on conversation and listening to
its public. If the requirement of debate is necessary, the latter must be part of
the framework of the individual structures of each media, with respect for
its history, its traditions, its culture.
- Secondly, I see an economic and legal deadlock with confiscation
responsibility of the publisher. In the eyes of the law and the public, this is the
publication director who is responsible. Organize within
the company a counter-power with responsibility, it would make
illegitimate the exercise of this responsibility which implies duties but
rights. Without assuming the risk-taking characterized by the
financial participation in the company’s economy, the editorial team
thus legalized would benefit from a disproportionate weight on the orientations
operational and strategic of the company.
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.
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 change the line
editorial of the media he runs. He alone can decide, in accordance with the
journalists, to create a society of journalists. Except for
it is not up to the legislator
to impose on it the obligation to share the definition of the editorial line.
Even though it will bear the risks incurred alone, particularly in the
This would be an unacceptable logic of the double standard
Finally, since you refer to this point in your explanatory statement, I
Recalls that the law in France has provided mechanisms to guarantee
the pluralism of the press. The common law provisions of control
mergers apply to the media sector. The
control of concentrative operations. Tel a
in particular was the case when the group bought back the “Les Echos” security
LVMH. In addition, the law of 1 August 1986 on the reform of the
Law of 30 September 1986 for the audiovisual sector
contain specific rules that limit concentration.
For all the reasons I have mentioned, the Government cannot
support a proposed law that aims to create new
obligations of the publishers, even if I measure well the willingness
I would like to refer to the part of the proposal to establish
increased transparency obligations, including shareholding, equity
This point was proposed by the President of the Republic, in his
closing speech of the States General of the Press on 23 January
2009: he wanted to improve the transparency of the
press companies in order to strengthen the confidence of the reader.
The Government is therefore fully in favour of this proposal.
However, to the extent that the National Assembly has introduced such
provisions in the proposed law to simplify and improve
the quality of the law presented by the chairman of the law commission, Mr.
Jean-Luc WARSMANN, I can only ask for his rejection as well.
I want to make it very clear that this is the only reason I am
vote against this aspect of the bill. We
cannot afford to have provisions of similar scope
which are proceeding in parallel in two texts under review.
I would like to conclude by stressing that the legitimate debate on
the independence and pluralism of the media cannot lead us to
pitfalls. As I have tried to show, wanting too much to legislate,
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
words, we continue to believe in the requirement of “ethics” for
each journalist, responsibility” (Max Weber).