Minister apologises after request to remove article
Internal Security Minister Henri Kox was forced to apologise after a spokesperson at his ministry requested that a news website remove an article about police reforms.
The spokesperson had used a poor choice of words when stating "I ask you to please delete the article" in an email to the Reporter.lu website at the end of April, Kox said in response to parliamentary questions from opposition lawmakers on Monday. The spokesperson had also submitted a list of 12 passages in the article the ministry wished to rebut.
Kox denied that he had ordered his spokesperson to ask for the article to be killed. “The ministry did not, at any moment, intend to undermine the freedom of the press, or furthermore to censure a journalist,” said Kox.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is also responsible for media, had also signed Kox's responses to the questions.
“The sentence “I ask you to please delete the article” was poorly worded and if it had the consequence of creating any doubt about respect for the principle of press freedom, the Ministry of Internal Security officially apologises,” the ministers added.
Asked for his views on the incident and whether it constituted an “undermining of the freedom of the press”, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said he was “not in a position to comment on an email exchange between a civil servant and a journalist”.
Bettel said he was “not aware of any such previous demands” in response to a question on whether it was common practice for the government to request the removal of an article with which it disagreed.
“The article which the spokesperson had asked to be removed is still online,” added Bettel.
Luxembourg has dropped from fourth to 20th position in a global media ranking on press freedom since Bettel took office in 2013.
Greater access to government documents has been a particular obstacle for journalists, with Luxembourg lagging behind many of its neighbours in Freedom of Information legislation.
Back in 2018, the country became one of the last in the European Union to permit citizens to apply for access to government documents, but the law has many restrictions that makes it hard to actually obtain documents in practice.