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"Inequalities are all the stronger as freedom of the press is fragile"

The researcher Thibault Gajdos denounces a threat from the executive on freedom of information, which would prefer that the press reports its statements rather than give the floor to the "yellow vests".

Posted today at 06:30 Time to Reading 3 min.

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Chronicle "France trends". In an interview with journalists on January 31, the President of the Republic was annoyed that the media give so much time to a "Jojo with a yellow vest" and announced to think about creating a structure to ensure the verification and neutrality of information. It's not just about words: laws on the protection of business secrets and false news have harmed the freedom of information, and the search attempt at Mediapart proves that the executive does not hesitate to threaten the freedom of the media when it deems it necessary.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Two MPs want to tackle tax evasion scandals

This desire to regain control is not unrelated to the crisis in our country: many studies have shown that the media played an important role in two areas at the heart of the interventions of "yellow vests" that both indispose Emmanuel Macron: inequalities and taxation on the one hand, the fight against tax fraud on the other.

First, the media allows citizens to form an opinion about the level of inequality and how the tax system corrects them. This information can change the positions of voters. For example, a study shows that the number of respondents favoring an increase in inheritance rights in the United States doubled when they had accurate information on the proportion of inheritances that are actually taxed ("How Elastic Are Preferences for Redistribution? Ilyana Kuziemko, Michael Norton, Emmanuel Saez and Stefanie Stantcheva, American Economic Review No. 105/4, 2015). We can therefore assume that there is a link between the degree of freedom of the media, especially with regard to economic power, and the level of inequality in a country. This is indeed what was found in the data analysis of 102 countries (including France) between 1994 and 2003: the inequalities are even stronger than the freedom of the press (measured in particular by the index calculated by Reporters Without Borders) was fragile ("Inequality and Media Capture", Maria Petrova, Journal of Public Economics No. 92 / 1-2, 2008).

In France, 80% of media are controlled by companies

But that's not all. It may be assumed that a press dependent on economic power will be less quick to denounce companies' tax evasion strategies, thus reducing the political and social pressure to fight against these strategies. This is reported in a data study of companies from 32 countries (including France) between 1995 and 2007 ("Cross-Country Evidence on the Role of Independent Media in Constraining Corporate Tax Aggressiveness", Kiridaran Kanagaretnam, Jimmy Lee , Chee Yeow Lim and Gerald J. Lobo, Journal of Business Ethics n ° 150/3, 2018): tax evasion is all the more important as media ownership is concentrated between a small number of owners – which is the case in France.


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