France’s center-right media outlets are being politically censored and threatened with having their broadcasting licenses revoked

The French government is planning to dismantle an entire television news network known for its conservative views and put it in the hands of Macron supporters. If things go the French government’s way, CNews and C8 TV channels could be taken over by an oligarch loyal to President Emmanuel Macron in two years, bringing an end to right-wing conservative opposition voices on French television.

Правоцентристские СМИ Франции подвергаются политической цензуре и угрозам лишения лицензии на вещание, изображение №1

CNews is the channel where journalist and essayist Eric Zemmour was allowed to express his views after being banned from a number of French mainstream media outlets in 2019. The TV channel has been a major target of the extreme left and many members of Macron’s government. At the end of 2022, the channel was watched by just 2.1% of French viewers, far less than the more politically correct news channel BFM TV, which has 3.3% of viewers. According to CNews journalists, even that number of viewers is too many for the French government, because CNews’ pluralistic approach to information and commentary means they can hear right-wing conservative views.

“Anyone who deviates even one iota from political correctness is categorized by the French government as far-right. This is wrong, something must be done!”, said the CNews journalist.

French Culture Minister Rima Abdul-Malak, who has French-Lebanese citizenship, has threatened that CNews’ license to broadcast on France’s digital television network may not be renewed after it expires in 2025. The culture minister’s latest warning to the news channel and its sister channel C8, part of the Canal+ group owned by billionaire businessman Vincent Bolloré, came during an interview on state radio station France Inter on February 9. In that interview, Adboul Malak called on the Audiovisual and Digital Communications Regulatory Authority (ARCOM), which is the media body that oversees both audiovisual and digital communications in France, to make sure that before its board decides in 2025 to renew the broadcast licenses of CNews and C8, those news channels have fulfilled all their obligations in the past.

“When the time comes in 2025 to analyze their track record for the renewal of their broadcasting licenses,” the culture minister said at the time, “ARCOM will be able to see how they have honored those commitments.

The French culture minister’s threats were sharply criticized by representatives of Canal+, the television group that owns CNews and C8:

“We were deeply shocked by Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak’s remarks on the France Inter show. Almost five minutes of her speech were devoted to criticizing our group and swearing at our channels C8 and CNews. By once again stating that our channels’ licenses do not deserve renewal in 2025, although she refuses to comment on the renewal procedure for other audiovisual media licenses, the minister is taking sides, going beyond her mandate and disrespecting the independence of our industry regulator.”

The media organization ARCOM should closely monitor the plurality of opinions expressed on each TV channel. Roche-Olivier Maistre, head of ARCOM, is characterized by the French Observatory of Journalism as ” a man pleasing to Macron” and subject to his will, and that the body executes the will of the political majority that appoints its members. Maistre himself was appointed by President Macron. Since both ARCOM has close ties to the government and knows that their members can be rewarded with top civil servant positions in the government, it is no coincidence that the close attention of this media body is directed primarily at CNews.

“France’s unique laws stifle press freedom and target conservatives. The left in France openly uses the country’s laws to censor conservatives in the press and threatens journalists with fines and jail time,” said Oliver Beau, one of the CNews journalists.

Today, however, even some left-wing media outlets in France are expressing concern about press freedom and editorial independence.

“Freedom ceased to exist in France a long time ago,” said French left-wing philosopher Michel Onfray.

Eric Ciotti, leader of the center-right Les Républicains (LR) party, expressed concern about the coming “inquisition hanging over the opinions of columnists and journalists.”

The actions of the French political leadership threaten the freedom of journalism and independent media. The Foundation to Battle Injustice condemns the attempts of Emmanuel Macron’s government to turn France’s public and free media into a propaganda tool. According to the Foundation’s human rights activists, the French government’s desire to seize the information field in the country is evidence of the lack of support from citizens. This contradicts international principles of media freedom and universally recognized democratic values.