In an email sent to our “Subscribers” department on September 24th, the United States embassy in France notified us that its subscription to Mediapart would only be renewed on condition that Mediapart signs a declaration certifying that we do not use equipment manufactured by Chinese companies or their subsidiaries.
The notification, written in French, polite in form and firm in substance, read as follows: “We subscribe to Mediapart (2 subscriptions), I am sending you, attached here, an attestation in English [see here] which should be signed and dated. Without this attestation, we will no longer be able to buy from you [sic] because the government of the United States requires an attestation by those who sell to us certifying that they do not use certain materials, the list of which is below.”
“The government of the United States of America voted the entering into force of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on August 13th 2020; a part of the NDAA is specifically dedicated to contracts and acquisitions, and notably to commercial relations with companies which use within their network(s) material from Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, Dahua,Hytera as well as their subsidiaries and affiliated companies. Therefore, we thank you for returning the attestation, duly signed, in order to be able to provide you with an order form for your services.”
The five companies targeted are large Chinese groups working in the fields of telecommunications and telemonitoring and controlled by the authorities in Beijing. Far from being zealous, the American diplomatic services in France are simply applying the instructions of the Trump administration which unilaterally imposes its trade law in the name of security interests. It was thus that its decision to pull out of the deal over the Iranian nuclear programme was accompanied by threats of sanctions against any European company that continued to do business with Tehran. Far from being anecdotal, these measures, which are those of a dominating nationalism, signify the death of any multilateralism, the American power believing itself to have the right to impose, without discussion, its laws upon foreign partners, without regard for their sovereignty, liberty or rights.
That is what is illustrated, to the point of absurdity, by the bureaucratic order that has been made to us for just two subscriptions. We could have regarded it as laughable, and signed and return the attestation required of us, considering it to be a simple formality. But this is about a question of principle, where essential issues of renunciation are at play. So here below is the reply I sent to the US embassy services concerned, in my position as publishing editor of Mediapart, on October 6th, explaining our refusal to comply with the demand.
In your email correspondence of September 24th 2020, you asked Mediapart, in the name of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of August 13th 2020, to certify that it does not use telecommunications equipment or services supplied by the companies Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, Dahua and Hyteria, and does not use equipment, systems or services using equipment or services provided by these companies. In the event that we do not provide that certification, you indicate that you will no longer be able to maintain your subscriptions to our journal in the name of the United States embassy.
Your request, if we agreed to it, would require Mediapart to apply discrimination of its suppliers on the basis of their country of origin, in this case companies established in the People’s Republic of China, namely Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, Dahua and Hyteria. This in every sense represents placing pressure on an independent media.
Your administration cannot be unaware that any pressure placed on a media organisation is an attack on its independence. This concerns a principle which is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, the country where the freedom of expression and that of the press was born. This principle was in turn enshrined in the Constitution of the French Republic, in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and in the European Convention on Human Rights, which are the laws which govern us.
Mediapart chooses its suppliers on the basis of criteria concerning quality and price. To give a favourable response to a request of this nature, one that is obviously discriminatory, would undermine the managerial choices of Mediapart and its economic equilibrium.
Concerning the material supplied by the targeted companies, the requirements of the government of the United States of America refer to security criteria, but are evidently of an ideological nature. Given that the activities of our journal do not concern, in any manner, the national security or foreign affairs policies of the United States of America, your request is unreasonable.
In the same way that we would not accept in any manner an instruction from the People’s Republic of China aimed at prohibiting us, on the pretext of security, from using the products, services, platforms or equipment of American companies (Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), your request relating to products of Chinese companies (Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, Dahua and Hyteria) cannot in any manner be given satisfaction.
Finally, concerning the links between the government of the People’s Republic of China and the companies targeted by your request, we remind you that Mediapart is a journal at the forefront of the defence of human and political rights, notably those of the inhabitants of Hong Kong and of Tibet, and members of the Uyghur minority, and therefore has no need of a lecture on these engagements from any state or government.