France4 May 2005
Police challenge to confidentiality of sources on World Press Freedom Day
Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay today at the action of plain-clothes police from Orleans in interrogating two journalists with Le Berry Républicain daily newspaper yesterday in an attempt to get them to reveal their sources for their reports about a murder investigation.
"It is particularly shocking and untimely that, as World Press Freedom Day was being celebrated all over the world, gendarmes questioned two journalists and tried to find out their sources as part of a preliminary enquiry into a supposed breach of the secrecy of a crime investigation," the press freedom organization said.
"The confidentiality of journalists’ sources is an inviolable principle that allows no exceptions," Reporters Without Borders said, stressing that it is recognized by article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and article 109-2 of the French code of criminal procedure.
Furthermore, in a famous ruling on 27 March 1996 in Goodwin v. United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights defined the protection of sources as one of the cornerstones of press freedom, the organization added
Without previously notifying Le Berry Républicain, three plain-clothes members of the Orleans gendarmerie entered the newspaper’s bureau in Issoudun at around 10 a.m. yesterday and questioned a journalist for an hour in an unsuccessful attempt to get her to disclose the sources for the reports she and another journalist wrote for the 30 April, 2 May and 3 May issues about a local murder in which the body has never been found. The reports were headlined, "Body still cannot be found", "Body’s scant traces" and "Details of the murder without a body."
The gendarmes also went to the newspaper’s head office in Bourges at 1:30 p.m. to talk to the other journalist, who is in charge of its crime section. As he had the day off, they then went to his home to question him about the sources for the reports.
The deputy state prosecutor in Châteauroux ordered the interrogation of the two journalists because of a supposed breach of the murder investigation’s confidentiality. Le Berry Républicain editor Bernard Stéphan said he was "shocked" and added, "even if they had sources, they would obviously not give them."