French President Emmanuel Macron came out strongly on Wednesday in support of press freedom and announced a bill to combat the spread of fake news during election campaigns.
In a speech to journalists at the Elysee Palace in Paris that laid out his agenda for 2018, Macron said that press freedom was “the highest expression of freedom.”
He said he was going to propose soon a new law to combat fake news on the internet during French election campaigns.
“Journalists are the first threatened by propaganda,” he said.
Websites would have to say who was financing them and the amount of money for sponsored content would be capped, the French president said.
In the case of fake news, an emergency legal action could allow French authorities to suppress that content or even block access to the website, Macron said.
He denounced the fact that “there is a financial strategy aiming at fostering doubt, forging alternative realities, that allows people to think that the media and politicians always are more or less deceptive.”
Macron also said France and the European Union should consider “the consequences” of the recent US decision to eliminate net-neutrality protections for the internet. He did not elaborate.
“Press freedom is not only attacked by dictatorships, it is also battered in countries that are democracies” including in Europe, he said. He made a reference to Hungary and Poland and their recent crackdown on media freedom.
Macron also mentioned Turkey and Russia as countries that should “fulfill their commitments” as signatories to the European Convention of Human Rights. Macron will meet on Friday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Paris.
Earlier on Wednesday, Macron urged his ministers to rapidly push on with measures to reform France’s economy, security apparatus and immigration policies.
Topping his agenda in the first half of 2018 is a bill to address France’s high unemployment through better training of jobless workers.
Macron’s government is also planning a strategic review of the French military, a bill to better understand immigration into the country and measures to combat violence against women.