Several major French media outlets have claimed Emmanuel Macron’s government is clamping down on press freedom.The complaints largely stem from several incidents in which the French executive, headed by newly elected President Emmanuel Macron, has tried to impose various controls on the press.
Last week, the Minister of Justice François Bayrou attempted to put pressure on broadcaster Radio France for “harassment” shortly before allegations emerged he was involved in a fake jobs scandal, L’Express reports.
Bayrou is said to have paid assistants using European Union funds, something he has denied. The accusations are similar to the “fake job scandal” which dramatically hurt Republican presidential candidate François Fillon in the first round of the French presidential election.
Two days later on June 9th, the Labour Minister Muriel Pénicaud filed an injunction against an unknown leaker for theft and possession of government documents after the magazine Libération published the leaked documents. The documents are said to have been in relation to the proposed plans to reform the French labour code.
The two instances are not the first time Macron and his government have tried to either control the press or seek legal action.
During the second round of the French presidential campaign, a number of documents from Macron’s campaign were leaked in what became known as the MacronLeaks.
On May 11th, Macron’s En Marche movement went after political weekly publication La Lettre A claiming they had leaked information about donors to the movement which were contained in the leaks.
Also, during the campaign, Macron’s team barred several Russian media outlets from covering his campaign, alleging they were spreading “fake news” and “propaganda”. Macron also blamed Russia for trying to “hack” his campaign, though the French cybersecurity agency later claimed there was no evidence of Russian involvement.
Macron has sought to control who in the French press can cover his presidential activities, too. Shortly after his election, Macron planned a state visit to Mali and personally selected which journalists would be able to accompany him on the trip.
Some in the British press, like Sun writer Harry Cole, have had a far more favourable opinion of Macron, not because he has given them more press freedom, but because he has given them free wine, rather than coffee.
After the legislative elections in France wrap up on Sunday, it is expected that President Macron will further cement his control over the country. His new political party Republic En Marche is expected to dominate the 577-seat national assembly with few in opposition.