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France14 January 2005

Police searches at Le Point and l’Equipe are a new violation of protection of sources

An examining magistrate led some ten police on a search of the weekly Le Point offices in Paris on 13 January in a probe into "violation of the confidentiality of an investigation" involving an alleged doping scandal within cycle team Cofidis.

A virtually simultaneous search was carried out by another examining magistrate at the offices of the sports daily L’Equipe.

Reporters Without Borders said, "We offer our support to the journalists and the management of Le Point and L’Equipe, and call on the legal authorities to respect the right to protection of sources, guaranteed by Article 109 of the criminal code and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The first search, at Le Point, was led by magistrate Katherine Cornier from the Paris suburb of Nanterre. Police with her noted all the newspaper’s fax numbers and seized two computers belonging to journalists Olivia Recasens and Jean-Michel Décujis, in a bid to identify their sources on the doping story. Police and the magistrate questioned journalist Christophe Labbé the same afternoon while Décujis will be interviewed on 14 January.

The Nanterre prosecutor’s office launched a legal action at the start of 2004 for violating the confidentiality of an investigation after Le Point on 22 January carried extracts of phone-tapped conversations ordered by Judge Richard Pallain in the doping scandal involving cycling competitors in the Confidis case.

Divulging the results of phone-tapping can be seen as a violation of confidentiality of an investigation.

The courts on 14 December ordered Le Point’s management to quickly produce full details of the newspaper’s hierarchy with details of all staff phone and fax numbers. Chief Executive Officer Franz-Olivier Giesbert, only sent the judge the same details that are published in the newspaper itself.

L’Equipe had on 9 April 2004 carried extensive extracts of official interviews with several Cofidis riders, some of whom were under investigation in the alleged doping scandal within the cycle team.

A Nanterre judge decided after the management of Cofidis had issued a writ against l’Equipe that the confidentiality of the investigation did not bind the daily’s journalists.

Reporters Without Borders, the French federation of press agencies and reporters in the written and broadcast press in September 2004 set up a working group with the aim of formulating clear proposals to the Justice Minister to ensure permanent protection of sources.

Reporters Without Borders also stressed on 13 January that the courts should never take the view that journalists were police auxiliaries. "The protection of sources is an inviolable principle to which there can be no exceptions. We consider that this legal gesture has just one aim which is to intimidate the journalists’ sources," it said.

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