By Damon Mitchell • 06 May 2020 • 14:32
THE French government has taken down a Covid-19 ‘fake news’ page after it had allegedly overstepped its constitutional role and infringed freedom of press guidelines.
A page called Desinfox appeared on the government’s website last week claiming to be tackling misinformation about Coronavirus in the French media.
However, France’s culture minister, Franck Riester, has now announced the page would be removed after the country’s journalists’ union reported the government to the Conseil d’État, the highest administrative court in France,
The Syndicat National des Journalists (SNJ) had filed an emergency appeal with the court requesting a judge order the prime minister, Édouard Philippe, to delete the page and “put an immediate stop to the serious and manifestly illegal attack on the principles of pluralism in the expression of opinions and on the neutrality of public authorities.”
The SNJ said the Desinfox page created “a confusion between the media who deserve to be cited by the government at the risk of introducing into the mind of the reader suspicions over the relations between the press and the political world” and added that the page was “a clear interference by public authorities in the freedom of the press at a time when journalists should, according to the European court of human rights, be the ‘watchdogs of democracy’.”
In a letter published by French newspaper Le Monde on Sunday, around 30 journalists’ and editors’ organisations aired their objections to the page, arguing that the state “is not the arbiter of information.”
“By distinguishing this or that article on its site, the government gives the impression – in a damaging mix of genre – of labelling the production of certain media. According to the same logic, the others being not worthy of being printed. The state has no legitimacy to do this in a country where press freedom is a fundamental freedom,” it read.
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