A matter of trust

By Misch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

The relationship between the press offices of the ministries and the press seems to be strained, according to many journalists. But instead of just complaining about press offices, the Lëtzebuerger Journal spoke to a press officer to get her perspective on the cooperation between the two sides.

The slow tug-of-war over the right of access to information for journalists in Luxembourg continues. One of the key dates in the discussion is January 7, 2016, when the memo since known as Circulaire Bettel, with the subject "Rights and obligations of public officials in their dealings with the press", was published and immediately sharply criticised by the press. Communication with the press, it says, should only be carried out by the press offices. Press enquiries received by civil servants are to be forwarded directly to the press offices, and talks with representatives of the press are only permitted if they have been agreed with the head of service or minister. The document, which according to Prime Minister and Media Minister Bettel was intended to streamline communication, was formulated in such a way that it had the opposite result, according to the criticism of the journalists' association ALJP (Association luxembourgeoise des journalistes professionels). While not outright prohibiting the exchange between the press and civil servants, it seems to have had a chilling effect on communication.

A revised version of the current text, which originally, according to the signatory media minister, "has not fully met the objective of smoother communication", is already under criticism. This is not only because, according to ALJP President Roger Infalt, it is "virtually identical" to the 2016 text. But also, because it is still only a circular, which is no substitute for an extended access to information law, which journalists can invoke in cases of conflict and which still does not exist in Luxembourg. The Press Council's assessment of the new text is still pending.

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