Last year, member of parliament Roy Reding (ADR) had posted contact information of a journalist in a private anti-vaccine messaging groups, leading to the reporter receiving death threats, only one in a rising number of incidents of attacks on the press. Reding later said he had accidentally included the number in his post.
“When the editor-in-chief of a radio station makes a critical comment, he receives death threats. When a journalist from another station tries to get to the bottom of something, his house is pelted with eggs. All of these are situations that are untenable,” Tanson (Déi Gréng) said speaking in parliament during an exchange on media freedom during the pandemic.
Luxembourg has no specific legal framework to prosecute threats against journalists and it is the regular penal code that applies. While this is also the case in Belgium and Germany, Tanson said France offers additional protections that she is “interested in, also in light of what we have seen in these last few weeks.”
Private addresses and phone numbers of journalists but also the addresses of the prime minister and other members of cabinet had been circulated online, she said.
In France, law specifies that “the act of revealing, disseminating or transmitting, by any means whatsoever, information relating to the private, family or professional life of a person allowing them to be identified or located for the purpose of exposing or exposing the members of their family to a direct risk of harm to person or property […] is punished by three years' imprisonment and a fine of €45,000.”
For journalists and public or elected officials, the sentence can rise to five years in prison and a fine of €75,000. “I’m telling you this not just because I’m thinking about including such a mechanism in our law but also because it highlights that it’s not trivial when you do this,” the justice minister said.
Members of parliament on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution in support of Luxembourg’s media, press freedom and independence as well as denouncing incitement to violence against the press and violations of journalists’ right to privacy.
Members of the ADR faced criticism in the chamber for supporting the motion when MPs this week filed a legal complaint against the editor-in-chief of the Tageblatt newspaper, who had called the party a group of “vile scumbags” during a roundtable discussion on RTL radio.
The party said that it supports media freedom but that there were private insults that it cannot accept. Fernand Kartheiser (ADR) speaking on Thursday also accused the Luxembourg media of silencing alternative opinions, one-sided reporting and being part of a “politically correct mainstream.”