Freedom of the press – International conference on “Civil societies, media and public authorities: Democracies facing the manipulation of information” (Paris, 04.04.18)

Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, will conclude, on April 4, the international conference on “Civil societies, media and public authorities: Democracies facing the manipulation of information,” hosted by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs at the Ministerial Conference Center. The conference will be opened by Françoise Nyssen, Minister of Culture.

As reflected by numerous cases involving the manipulation of public opinion, notably in the run-up to elections, states are openly incorporating into their doctrines the use of information channels for the purpose of destabilizing their opponents. Non-state groups may also be participating in this type of activity, as the case involving Cambridge Analytica has just demonstrated.

As Jean-Yves Le Drian indicated in his speech setting out France’s international digital strategy on December 15, disinformation campaigns are based on use of the digital space at a massive scale and pose a threat to democracy and the sovereignty of the targeted states. The dissemination of reliable, verified and sound information while respecting the pluralism of opinions, poses a challenge for democracy. The collective vigilance of the media as well as civil society actors is the only way to preserve the very essence of our democratic way of life: the capacity of citizens to independently form their own opinions.

Those who engage in manipulation tactics are attempting to turn the very principles that form the basis of our democracies against these democracies – openness, the freedom of information and communication – in order to make them instruments for interference and destabilization.

The conference aims to mobilize all actors concerned – French and foreign actors – in support of an agenda focusing on concrete, democratic and collaborative solutions in order to address the manipulation of information. Experts and committed personalities from all walks of life have been invited to discuss the resilience of democratic societies and media in the face of this challenge, as well as the specific role of public authorities in the face of disinformation. The conference will be preceded by closed workshops that will allow specialists from civil society (researchers and businesses in particular) to discuss with government representatives the new methods being used by those responsible for this meddling.

The conference will contribute to the development of measures aimed at protecting democratic life and holding digital platforms accountable, in accordance with the wishes expressed by President Macron during his New Year greetings to the press on January 3, 2018.

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