France | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2009

2009 Scores

Press Status


Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

  • The constitution and governing institutions 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 March 2008, President Nicolas Sarkozy withdrew his complaint against the newspaper Nouvel Observateur after it apologized to his wife over a story it ran on their marriage.
  • In February, a plan suppressing commercial sources of revenue for public broadcasting was announced. The proposal was criticized for its failure to address the expected loss of up to 850 million euros in commercial revenue by the country’s public broadcasters.
  • In December, the National Assembly passed a bill that banned prime-time advertising from state-funded television networks. The bill also gave Sarkozy the power to name the head of public broadcasting. A final vote was pending at year’s end.
  • The government drafted a bill, passed in December, that would reinforce protection of source confidentiality, including a clause restricting searches of journalists’ homes. The measure was set to be incorporated into Article 2 of the law on press freedom. Bloggers would not be covered under this law.
  • Protection of journalists’ sources remained the top press freedom issue in France in 2008. Journalist Bruno Thomas of the car publication Auto Plus was held for 48 hours, then charged on July 17, after carmaker Renault accused the magazine of publishing photos of future car models. Thomas’s refusal to reveal his sources apparently led to his detention.
  • Police and judicial officials raided the local daily newspapers Centre-Press and La Nouvelle Republique du Centre Ouest in the town of Poitiers on September 30 for allegedly violating the confidentiality of a judicial investigation.
  • Journalist Vittorio de Filippis was detained in November 2008 and subjected to two body searches before being taken to a judge. He was told he was under investigation in connection with a libel case against the daily Liberation, for which de Filippis was the managing editor in 2006.
  • Most of France’s more than 100 newspapers are privately owned.
  • The government controls many of the firms that supply advertising revenue to media groups.
  • There were no government restrictions on the internet, which is used by approximately 64.6 percent of the population. However, a 2006 antiterrorism law does allow security agencies to monitor the internet for suspected terrorists.