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France17 December 2008

Public debate on press freedom in Paris draws more than 700 participants

More than 700 people attended a public debate about a free and independent press in France which Mediapart and Reporters Without Borders organised at the Théâtre du Rond Point in Paris on the evening of 15 December. The debate was also broadcast live on the Mediapart and Reporters Without Borders websites. Mediapart director Edwy Plenel and Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard hosted the debate, whose participants included journalists, representatives of the main political parties and well-known figures who came to show their support and commitment to a free, independent and diverse press.

Collège de France professor Pierre Rosanvallon explained the “Appel de la Colline,” the petition which Mediapart and Reporters Without Borders launched at the Théâtre de la Colline in Paris on 24 November. Vittorio de Filippis, a Libération journalist who was arrested on 29 November, gave his views on changes in relations between the political and judicial authorities and journalists.

Claude Serillon, former anchor of France 2’s 8 p.m. news programme, talked about the proposed amendment to the public broadcasting legislation that would allow the president to appoint and dismiss the heads of the public broadcast media, pointing out that politicians of all colours have always wanted to control TV and that its independence must be defended.

Jean-François Kahn, founder and former editor of the weekly Marianne, gave a blistering critique of recent relations between the government and the media, accusing the former of trying to subjugate both state and privately-owned TV stations.

Among the politicians who offered their views or answered questions from the public were Modem leader François Bayrou, Revolutionary Communist league philosopher and theoretician Daniel Bensaïd, Seine Saint Denis parliamentary representative Patrick Braouezec of the Communist Party, MEP and Socialist Party spokesman Benoît Hamon, Gironde parliamentary representative Noël Mamère of the Greens, and La Drôme parliamentary representative Hervé Mariton of the ruling UMP. Le Nouvel Observateur, Marianne, Les Inrockuptibles, Mediapart and Rue 89 unveiled a joint appeal for the defence of freedom of the press and information, accusing the current government of “deliberately imposing a return to the past that is unacceptable.” The signatories are also opposed to the proposed reform of the public broadcasting legislation.

Julliard called for a big gathering of concerned citizens in early 2009, when the conclusions of President Sarkozy’s “États Généraux de la Presse” (broad consultations with the press) are known.

The “Appel de la Colline” petition calling for respect for media independence, transparency and diversity has already been signed by more than 5,000 people.

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