France – Chapter of the right to information (1973)

France has no legal or contractual code of practice applying to journalists as a whole. However, the various professional organisations have produced their own codes, applicable to their own members:

Adopted by the National Syndicate of Journalists (CFDT), the General Syndicate of Journalists (CGT-FO) and the French Federation of Societies of Journalists, Caen, 1973.

The freedom of the press does not guarantee by itself, in modern society, the information of citizens.

Today, there emerges a new necessity, a present-day demand: the right to information.

The multiplicity of information sources, the power and diversity of communication media, the necessity of both individual and collective choices imply the possibility for everybody to be fully informed about relevant facts of the political, social, economic and cultural life, and the right to information for all.

One enshrined in the Constitution, the right to information will be the corollary of the freedom of the press, of opinion and of speech, and will complete the right to education.

The whole complex of mass communication media has to secure an essential function in the general interest of the public and of democracy.

This is not, however, the case in our country. Information is exposed to pressures coming from power and money. The concentration of communication and dissemination media, the primacy of commercial imperatives and governmental control, hinder the exercise of the right to information.

This right is realised by the freedom to gather, receive, communicate, publish and disseminate information and ideas according to the following principles:
– freedom of access to information sources;
– duty of the public powers to provide all information they have at their disposal and not to impose any censorship, direct or indirect.
– recognition by the law of the right of the journalist to keep secret sources of information he has got confidentially;
– access to using mass media for the organisations representing various streams of opinion, and extension of the right to answer;
– free circulation of the press published in France and abroad in any language, which implies the abrogation of regulating texts opposing this freedom;
– protection against the danger of monopolies and concentrations; neither private enterprises nor financial groups should be entitled to establish a nation-wide, regional or local monopoly in the sphere of print and electronic media; the law should include the provision on the independence of the press and of media vis-a-vis the State;
– a particular assistance should be given to the press of opinion. This aid should take on such forms that would not in any case permit the use of political pressure.
– the definition of the rights and duties of journalists corresponding to the Declaration worked out in Munich by the Syndicates of European Journalists on 25 November 1971 and formulation of the ethical principles and guarantees of independence of the profession have to be included into the National Collective Agreement.
– national education will have to develop, in the teaching process, by a critical study of the print and electronic media; the newspapers made by the young people shall have to be officially recognised and enjoy the assistance granted to the other titles;
– the free circulation of the press of information and of opinion shall be secured in schools,army barracks and in prisons;
– the measures concerning the sectors related to the information (print, paper, dispatching services, etc.) shall be elaborated by all parties concerned.

The legal definition of a status of information enterprises to be elaborated in agreement with the information professionals is urgently needed. The law on press of 1881 and the texts completing or modifying it are not sufficient to guarantee the public the exercise of its right to information as it is defined in this document nor the necessary independence of journalists. It is convenient to make urgent steps to get such a statute promulgated.

It is necessary to submit to the consideration of the parliament the legal status of all information enterprises and in particular those that will have recourse to new technological means.

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