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Journalists' syndicate files complaint over arrest of reporter

Head of French Journalists' Syndicate Says Complaint to Be Filed Before Official Independent Commission over Arrest of Le Monde Journalist

IPI Fears Case Highlights Deterioration in French Press Freedom

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 22 July 2009 - On 13 July, Adrien Morin, a journalist interning with France's Le Monde newspaper, was arrested while covering a demonstration in the Paris suburb of Montreuil and held for some nine hours, overnight. The demonstrators were protesting against police violence, after five people were injured a day earlier when police forcibly evacuated a building occupied by squatters. One of those hurt, a young director, received a serious eye injury.

Morin was arrested at around 9:00 pm but although he repeatedly told the police that he was a journalist covering the protest, he was held until the next morning, when he was finally released following the intervention of a lawyer.

IPI is concerned over the implications of the arrest for France's climate of press freedom.

"The police must realize that these types of incidents, which appear to be part of an ongoing pattern of aggression towards the media, are detrimental not only to France's reputation, but may also have adverse consequences for journalists working in countries that traditionally look to the country as a model of democracy, and may now feel justified in adopting the same undemocratic practices," said IPI Director David Dadge.

Speaking to IPI, the secretary-general of France's National Syndicate of Journalists, Dominique Pradalié, noted that the Syndicate will be filing an official complaint over the arrest with France's Commission Nationale de Deontologie de la Securité (CNDS), or National Commission for the Deontology of Security, an independent administrative body set up in 2000 to ensure that ethical values are upheld when France's security services perform their jobs.

Pradalié said the arrest of Morin was symptomatic of a disturbing trend in France.

"We believe that for a number of months now, the police, and sometimes justice investigators, have been acting – either by constraining, or through violence – to prevent journalists from doing their job.

"When a journalist is correctly identifying themselves, is exercising their profession, and if the police have identified them, they have to be let free immediately."

Other incidents in recent months have intensified concerns about a deterioration of press freedom in France.

On 2 March, police raided the Paris offices of Tac Presse after a documentary film produced by Tac Presse was broadcast by the national TV channel "Canal +". The documentary, entitled "The Last Masters of Martinique," showed a businessman from the Caribbean island of Martinique – which belongs to France - making racist statements. Martinique's prosecutor's office filed a case against the businessman on the basis of the comments he made in the film. During the raid, police searched Tac Presse's offices and viewed the original copy of the documentary film.

In a separate incident at the end of last year, French authorities harassed the former managing editor of the daily Libération, Vittorio de Filippis, over a libel-related issue.

The police allegedly visited de Filippis early in the morning of 28 November 2008, verbally abused him in front of his children and took him to a police station, where he was questioned and twice subjected to body cavity searches before being brought before a judge. The arrest was in connection to a two-year old libel case concerning an article that was not written by de Filippis, but for which he was responsible due to his position at Libération at the time of its publication.

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