There are those in France who would have you believe that freedom of the press, like the notion of human rights itself, is a French invention. ‘The free communication of ideas and opinions’ was enshrined in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man as ‘one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom’ within the bounds of the law. Yet, like so many of those famous rights, it appears that in its spiritual home press freedom can be something of a chimera.
One of the elements that has historically limited journalistic freedom in France is the country’s draconian privacy laws, which make some of the types of press intrusion that are so common in the UK and the US subject to legal proceedings. Whilst there are many who would acknowledge that limiting the kind of press intrusion that Britain’s tabloids specialise in is surely not a bad thing, it has inevitably led to a climate where journalists self-censor and the public expresses profound scepticism regarding journalistic probity.
Read the full essay in Index on Censorship – Privacy is Dead!