Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, speaking in his capacity as Minister for Communications and Media, has highlighted the social importance of quality journalism and lamented the rise of ‘fake’ news.
Addressing journalists at the annual New Year press reception, Bettel reflected on the state of journalism in Luxembourg and its role in society.
Referring to questions he has received about stories people read on social media, he emphasised the need for good education and enabling readers – particularly younger ones – to differentiate between serious journalism and fake news.
At the same event, Paul Peckels, President of the Conseil de la Presse (Press Council) and Chief Executive at Saint Paul Luxembourg, spoke of the code of conduct that journalists must follow and the credibility of the profession.
Peckels said the code of conduct was essential for regulating journalism in Luxembourg, but he suggested certain aspects of the code may need to be updated to better align it with new media practices, particularly with respect to digital journalism.
Concerning the introduction of a freedom-of-information law for media professionals, journalists were left mostly with unaswered questions.
For years, the press has called for improved access to information from authorities.
State aid for written press
Peckels also suggested Luxembourg’s current method of supporting the local media through subsidies was “outdated”.
To receive state aid, media outlets must comply with a number of rules, including the employment of at least five journalists who hold a press card.
The subsidy, introduced in the 1970s to support the written press, is also proportional to the number of editorial pages published in a given issue.
“Support,” Peckels said, “should, for example, be linked to the number of journalists employed or the number of readers or subscribers.”
Requests for funding, offered on a quarterly basis, are analysed by a comission at the Ministry of Media and Communications.
In addition, local media outlets also receive financial compensation for publishing official notifications, such as calls for tenders.
In 2016, the press state support reached €7.4 million and was allocated to 10 print media organisations.
Support for digital media
In January 2017, a new subsidy was introduced for digital media outlets active in Luxembourg.
Online media companies must employ at least two journalists recognised by the Press Council and justify the content to be published on the digital platform.
A maximum of €100,000 can be granted to each media organisation per year.
Last year, seven digital media services received state support, including two from Saint Paul Luxembourg (wort.lu/en and Contacto, a Portuguese-language website) and sites belonging to Maison Moderne, L’Essentiel and the French-language website Le Quotidien.
The reform of the state aid is ongoing, with discussions foreseen between government officials and the Luxembourg Association of Newspaper Publishers (Association luxembourgeoise des éditeurs de journaux).
With neither an outcome nor a timeline confirmed for the reform, Peckels said he hoped a transition period would be granted to allow media organisations to adjust to the new framework.
The Press Council was created by the law of 20 December 1979 concerning the recognition and protection of journalists and is governed by the law of 4 June 2008 on the freedom of expression of the media.
Its main responsibility is to give accreditation to professionals and organise training sessions for the industry.
It is also responsible for the Code of Conduct that governs the profession of journalists in Luxembourg.
Next March, when Peckels’s two-year mandate comes to an end, the press council will elect a new president from among the journalists of the Luxembourg Association of Professional Journalists.