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IFJ denounces latest attack on protection of sources

(IFJ/IFEX) - 25 October 2010 - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), today expresses its deepest concern following a further violation of the law on protection of sources in France, reportedly ordered by the French authorities.

"For the second time in recent months, the law on protection of sources has been grossly violated in France, apparently on the orders of the highest leaders of this country, in spite of their responsibility for ensuring the implementation of the laws to ensure freedom of the press," said EFJ President Arne König.

The French daily Le Monde announced its intention to lodge a new complaint "against X" [a complaint against unknown people according to French law] after the police requested access to detailed phone bills of two journalists of this newspaper, Jacques Follorou and Gérard Davet, about the "Bettencourt" court-case. However, Article 77-1-1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure requires the prosecutor to obtain permission from reporters before seeking to access their detailed bills.

On 20 September, Le Monde had already brought a complaint for breach of confidentiality of sources. The paper claimed the Executive Branch of the National Police (DGPN) and services of the DCRI, the intelligence services, had spied on Le Monde to try to discover the source of the newspaper in the Woerth-Bettencourt case.

The EFJ denounced the French government in September about the first case of breach of confidentiality of sources on Le Monde.

The protection of journalistic sources is the cornerstone of press freedom in Europe, defined by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and enshrined as such by the constant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In France, a special law was enacted on 4 January 2010, stipulating that it was illegal to attempt "to discover the sources of a journalist by investigations on any person who, because of its usual relationship with a journalist, may hold information identifying these sources".

The EFJ is worried by these successive and repeated attacks against the law on protection of sources in France: in addition to Le Monde, the case of journalists working for Le Point and L'Equipe are currently being examined by the ECHR. The EFJ and the Syndicat National des Journalistes (SNJ) have submitted comments to these cases under the third party intervention.

This latest complaint "against X" supported by the SNJ and the SNJ-CGT follows the lawsuit brought by the online media Médiapart in defamation against the Secretary General of the ruling party, Xavier Bertrand.

The EFJ says that, though protected under the law across Europe, the confidentiality of sources is undermined in practice in many countries in the name of "state security" through abuse of power and especially thanks to technology that allows the tracing of electronic communications. The EFJ has organised a roundtable in London on 21 September in order to define common strategies in Europe.

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