Luxembourg’s media landscape is being redefined after the vote, in 2021, of a new system of state aid for the media. In principle, the press enjoys true freedom of operation, but the proximity of journalists’ interests to political and economic power limits their freedom of expression.
Subsidised to the tune of 10 million euros by the state (as much as state aid to all other media outlets combined), the RTL media conglomerate dominates the news in Luxembourg, reaching the vast majority of the population every week by TV, radio or internet. The Luxemburger Wort, a daily newspaper bought from the archdiocese in 2020 by a Belgian publisher, is read daily by around a quarter of the resident population. The second most read daily, L'Essentiel, is free. In the south of the country, Tageblatt, an outlet owned by a left-wing and mainly German-speaking labour union, is losing ground.
The parliamentary monarchy of Luxembourg experienced a change in the ruling party in 2013 after three decades of a Christian-social government. For a long time, each party had a so-called “obedience” newspaper, and, although those affiliations ended in the 2010s, some subordination seems to endure. Nevertheless, the media operate independently and journalists enjoy a great degree of freedom vis-à-vis the government and politicians.
Luxembourg law guarantees freedom of expression and the protection of sources. However, access to state-held information is not guaranteed, despite repeated requests from the journalists’ union, which opposes the withholding of public information by the authorities on the grounds of protecting personal data.
The leading daily newspapers have experienced a decline in subscriptions and advertising in recent years, which has forced them to reorient their activities. In the name of pluralism, a law passed in 2021 would provide each journalist with 30,000 euros a year in state aid and every publication with a lump sum of 200,000 euros. But media outlets, numerous given the size of the national market, remain under pressure and the Grand Duchy’s small size encourages conflicts between the media’s work and the various economic interests.
The press is widely read in Luxembourg, and the public’s level of respect for journalists is one of the highest in the EU, according to the European Commission. Banking secrecy and tax evasion have long remained off limits in the national press. When the LuxLeaks journalistic revelations shed light on Luxembourg’s tax optimisation industry thanks to two employees of an auditing firm, one of them, Raphaël Halet, was fined by the court. In 2023, he was finally recognised as a whistleblower by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which condemned Luxembourg for violating freedom of expression.
Some journalists have been threatened on social media in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic or subjected to intimidation attempts during protests against health restrictions. Although the government plans to legislate on this subject, such activity is not currently penalised by any existing law.