Status: Free
Legal Environment: 6
Political Environment: 10
Economic Environment: 7
Total Score: 23

Survey Edition20052006200720082009
Total Score, Status20,F21,F21,F22,F22,F
  • The constitution and governing institutions in France support an open press environment, although certain laws limit aspects of press freedom in practice.

  • There are strict antidefamation laws in place, with fines for those found guilty; the law also punishes efforts to justify war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as incitement to discrimination and violence.

  • In June 2009, the Constitutional Council rejected a provision contained in a controversial antipiracy law that would have given the High Authority for the Dissemination of Creative Works and Protection of Rights on the Internet (HADOPI) permission to disconnect internet access – without a court order – for users engaged in downloading music illegally. Following the ruling, an amended version of the antipiracy law was passed by the National Assembly in September and approved by the Constitutional Council in October. Under the new law, three warnings will be issued to users engaged in illegal downloading before their internet access is suspended for up to a year; repeat offenders could face fines of up to US$43,900, or up to two years in prison. The revised law differs from the previous version in that a judge must order the suspension of internet service, while HADOPI will be responsible for issuing warnings.

  • France's defense minister decided in 2009 that three documents containing information on the disappearance and death of journalist Jean-Pascal "JPK" Couraud in 1997 would not be declassified. Couraud had been investigating alleged bank-account scandals, including the suspected involvement of then president Jacques Chirac.

  • In June, Alex du Prel, editor of Tahiti-Pacifique, was found guilty of defamation by a Paris court; he was fined €1,000 (US$1,300) and ordered to pay the offended public prosecutor an additional €1,000. Du Prel had written an article in 2007 criticizing the justice system's handling of the Couraud case.

  • Media workers occasionally face harassment. In March 2009, the television production company Tac Presse's offices were raided by plainclothes police in search of the original footage of an interview with top Martinique businessman Alain Huyghues-Despointes, which had aired as part of a documentary in January. The footage showed Huyghues-Despointes making racist comments.

  • Also in March, an Algerian journalist, Samia Baba Aissa, was assaulted in Paris during a question-and-answer session with the campaign manager for Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Aissa had questioned the irregular distribution of resources to the parties competing in the Algerian presidential election. Human rights groups have highlighted the incident as an example of censorship spilling over from Algeria into France.

  • Isabelle Cottenceau, a television reporter for M6, was cleared of charges of "complicity in an act of violence" in May in relation to her footage of a teenager suspending himself from body piercings on his back in 2006. Cottenceau was facing six-month jail term and a minimum fine of €3,000 (US$3,700).

  • An intern for Le Monde was arrested in July 2009 and held overnight while covering demonstrations against police violence in Montreuil, even after he had identified himself as a journalist to the authorities.

  • In August, the car of Enrico Porsia, an Italian investigative reporter for the Amnistia news website, was bombed in Corsica; no injuries were reported.

  • Most of France's more than 100 newspapers are privately owned. However, many media outlets – print as well as broadcast – are owned by companies with close ties to prominent politicians and defense contractors. In addition, close associates of President Nicolas Sarkozy own or hold prominent positions at France's leading newspapers and television stations.

  • Prime-time advertising was banned from state-funded television networks as of January 5, 2009. Sarkozy was also awarded the power to name the head of public broadcasting.

  • To counter the loss of revenue from cuts in prime-time advertising on public channels, a 0.3 percent tax was imposed on private stations' advertising revenue in 2009, and a 0.9 percent tax was imposed on telecommunications companies' sales. While the new rules are contributing to serious financial losses for the affected stations, private broadcasters are permitted nine minutes of commercials per hour, a three-minute increase from 2008, as well as an additional commercial break in the middle of movies.

  • There were no government restrictions on the internet, which was used by approximately 71 percent of the population in 2009. However, a 2006 antiterrorism law does allow security agencies to monitor the internet for suspected terrorists.

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