Conseil d’Etat, a zany decision that violates the Media Freedom Act

Posted by Isabelle Szczepanski le 19 février 2024

The Conseil d’Etat’s decision about the French news channel Cnews is contrary to the Media Freedom Act currently being adopted in Brussels, and more specifically to its Article 20, which states that legislative, regulatory or administrative measures taken by a Member State which are liable to affect the editorial independence of media service providers must be duly justified and proportionate. The Conseil d’Etat’s reversal does not meet any of these conditions, which were set to enable Brussels to condemn the Hungarian populists and the Polish far-right.

In its decision of February 13, the French Conseil d’Etat ruled, at the request of Reporters sans Frontières, that the French media regulator Arcom must monitor all the channels’ operating conditions in order to fulfill its mandate of verifying the pluralism and independence of information. In so doing, the administrative judge gave the independent authority a much broader scope of action than that initially envisaged by the various laws and international conventions applicable to French broadcasting. It is therefore now up to Arcom « to assess the compliance of service publishers with this requirement (of pluralism, Editor’s note), in the exercise of their editorial freedom, by taking into account, in their programming as a whole, the diversity of currents of thought and opinion expressed by all participants in the programs broadcasts. » In plain English, this means that Arcom must verify the political color of all contributors, whether salaried or not, on any contracted news channel at any time. If it fails to do so, Arcom is – as the Conseil d’Etat puts it – not fulfilling its mandate, and the Conseil d’Etat overrules its decisions: that’s what it did here, with the CE giving…

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