Orwell comes to France: Left-wing NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) seeks to censor conservative journalists in its home country

Using Orwellian newspeak, Reporters Without Borders is seeking to censor and restrict journalists with right-wing conservative views from French television

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Olivier Bault

“Reporters Without Borders was created to defend pluralism. Today, it is an enemy of pluralism,” says Robert Ménard, a cofounder and long-time chief of Reporters without Borders, or Reporters sans frontières (RSF).

Ménard is now the mayor of Béziers, a city of some 90,000 inhabitants in southern France, where he was initially elected with the support of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally.

He was reacting to a breakthrough ruling by the Council of State, which is France’s highest administrative court, on Feb. 14. This ruling says that the country’s media authority ARCOM should closely monitor the plurality of views expressed on each TV channel.

Such obligation of plurality is enshrined in French law and is set as a condition for broadcasters to be given free slots on the digital terrestrial television network. What is new, however, is that the Council of State now says that ARCOM should monitor not only the exact television time granted to politicians of different parties on each channel but also classify all commentators and guests according to their views to ensure pluralism of views is also respected among them.

Such close surveillance of both public and private media by the state regulator is bound to cause headaches for editorial teams more than ARCOM itself, whose left-wing bias and submission to France’s executive is no secret.

A year ago, we informed Remix News readers about the threats addressed by France’s culture minister at CNews, the only news channel in France where conservative, right-wing views are regularly aired alongside others. Our report detailed how Roch-Olivier Maistre, the head of ARCOM, is described as “Macron-compatible” and docile by the French Observatory of Journalism, and the institution has a record of enforcing the will of the political majority who appoint its members. Maistre himself was appointed by President Macron. Six other members were appointed by the speakers of both houses of parliament, one by the Council of State, France’s top administrative court with very close links to the executive, and one by the Court of Cassation.

With both ARCOM and the Council of State having close links to government, and knowing their members can be rewarded with top civil servant posts in the government, it is no coincidence the breakthrough ruling by the latter is targeted primarily at CNews.

The reason Ménard lambasted RSF is that the plaintiff in the case at the heart of the Council of State’s ruling was none other than RSF, which demanded that ARCOM reconsider a complaint against CNews it had rejected.

Christophe Deloire, who is RSF’s incumbent secretary-general, does not hide his dislike for right-wing, conservative views. Invited on CNews to discuss his action and earlier assertions that the channel expresses undemocratic views, he heard from journalist and essayist Eric Naulleau that he “would never have believed that an association like RSF, which has fought for so many years for freedom of expression in countries where there is none, would now be fighting for people to be put on a political register.”

“There’s a syllogism-based crackdown on anything resembling dissent,” Naulleau told Deloire. “Anyone who deviates one iota from political correctness is classified as far right. Once everyone is classified as far right, you come along and say, ‘Look at CNews, they’re all far right.’ It’s not right, something has to be done!”

And it is indeed how RSF now works, not only in France but also worldwide, including when establishing its annual classification of press freedom in the world, where Central European countries with right-wing conservative governments are automatically relegated to positions way down the list.

What is worrying for France is that RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire has been appointed by President Macron as delegate-general of a newly created national convention on information, which is supposed to gather views from professionals, associations, and citizens that will give some appearance of legitimacy for making reforms that are officially meant to guarantee people’s access to information in the 21st century.

Similarly, however, the crackdown on CNews that is demanded by RSF is supposed to be a fight for pluralism, which Deloire summarizes with the following words on RSF’s website: “We don’t want to see an American-style democracy on the brink of civil war as a result of the dismantling of democratic protection for broadcasting, which has led to the polarization of the media.”

Making it clear that what RSF is trying to hamper by its action under Christophe Deloire’s leadership, whom Ménard himself calls a left-wing activist, RSF deputy director-general Thibaut Bruttin also rejoiced at the Council of State’s ruling, writing on RSF’s website: “Day after day, CNews is becoming a French-style Fox News, followed daily by over 8 million viewers, and dragging the audiovisual landscape into a society of commentary. The regulator’s laissez-faire attitude and the channel’s excesses, which have prevailed until now, are now coming to an unprecedented halt.”

This is quite an Orwellian approach to media pluralism where, in the eyes of Reporters Without Borders, the French authorities are supposed to enforce pluralism by putting an end to any kind of “polarization” of the media and by taming commentaries made on television.

While RSF rejoices at the Council of State’s February 14 ruling, even left-wing media in France have expressed their worries for press freedom and editorial independence. Among politicians, the founder of the far left party La France Insoumise (LFI), Jean-Luc Mélenchon, welcomed a decision that would make it possible to “face the CNews issue,” whereas the leader of center-right Les Républicains, (LR) Éric Ciotti, expressed concern about a forthcoming “inquisition looming over the opinions of columnists and journalists.”

As we learn from the French Observatory of Journalism, over half of RSF’s financial resources come from public subsidies that are mainly paid by the European Union,which gave RSF 1.4 million in 2021 alone. As for private contributors, a significant part of RSF’s revenues comes from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, with 300,000 given just in 2021.

Apparently, the Council of State ruling won by RSF is already having a deterring effect on CNews. On Monday, the TV channel officially apologized after a commentator had said during a religious talk show taking place a day earlier that abortion is the leading cause of death in the world. This is a true fact, as 44 million human lives were taken away by abortions in 2023 alone, but it is the kind of truth you are not allowed to voice publicly in France.

In an almost Stalinist-style show of repentance and allegiance to the dominant ideology, CNews’ presenter Laurence Ferrari, who read CNews’ apology, even felt compelled to ensure that she could assure viewers that she is herself strongly in favor of enshrining the right to abort in the French constitution.

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