Report: Luxembourg's fragile press freedom

Prime minister Xavier Bettel is pictured in this archive photo of a press briefing Luxembourg government/archives

Prime minister Xavier Bettel is pictured in this archive photo of a press briefing Luxembourg government/archives

“Pluralist but dependent on business interests”--that is the verdict on Luxembourg’s media landscape from press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders.

In its annual World Press Freedom Index, Luxembourg retained its place at number 17, receiving a 0.94 point increase in its global score.

Reporters Without Borders writes that Luxembourg benefits from a variety of media but points out that state subsidies mean “daily papers faithfully reflect the views of the country’s main political parties”.

The report’s author explains that questions also remain about the “independence of state-funded Radio 100,7 and about the Bertelsmann-owned digital media group RTL, which is indirectly funded by the state via a public service concession.”

In 2017, the State extended subsidies to online media, which the report erroneously suggests is not yet the case. In fact, the government is discussing reforming the criteria determining how these online subsidies are distributed.

Access to public documents

Reporters Without Borders says journalists struggle to obtain public documents--it writes that the authorities are still reluctant to hand over technical documents, while judicial systems resist providing the media with details of its rulings.

Another challenge for media freedom is the country’s size and traditional funding mechanisms. “They [media] tend to be gagged by economic interests, whether linked to individual owners or funding through advertising,” the report explains.

It concludes that “Widespread collusion, pooling of information and other pernicious practices all threaten Luxembourg’s fragile press freedom.”

On the positive side, the report author writes that the Luxleaks revelations, in which whistleblower Antoine Deltour disclosed information from his employer about tax dealings, has “set a precedent that bodes well for the freedom of expression (as advocated by the European Court of Human Rights) at the local level,” the report reads, without providing further details.

What the report does not mention is that the new government formed after the 2018 legislative elections introduced on 1 January 2019 a new law obliging public bodies to automatically publish public documents online or provide them within a month of a request. According to the press council, the government has also said it is open to discuss other freedom of information measures.

You can read more about the press subsidies in this article in the April/May 2019 edition of Delano Magazine.