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France 27 October 2005

Interior minister says “no excuse” for threats to journalists over Corsica ferry dispute

French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy has written to Reporters Without Borders saying there is “no excuse” for the threats that have been made against journalists over the dispute about the Corsican ferry company SNCM.

Sarkozy wrote to Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard yesterday after Ménard voiced concern about this issue in a meeting on 20 October with Sarkozy’s chief of staff, Claude Gueant, and his press and communication adviser, Franck Louvrier.

“There is no excuse for such actions,” Sarkozy said in his letter. “No cause, no political or labour struggle can possibly justify this type of individual behaviour. Such acts should be treated for what they are. First and foremost, they are criminal acts that are punishable under the law.”

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Secretary-General,

In your letter of 19 October, you expressed to me your fears and your more general concerns about the threats and even acts of violence of which some of your fellow journalists have recently been the victims.

Your outrage is entirely legitimate and I share it fully, as a citizen, obviously, but also and above all as a government minister.

The interior minister is clearly responsible for maintaining public order and security but it is too often forgotten that he is also the minister for civil rights and that it is his job to ensure on a daily basis that French citizens can enjoy such key civil rights as personal security, freedom of movement and press freedom.

Let me tell you that, in my view, press freedom belongs to a special category of primary freedoms, ones that are so fundamental that they can be considered as part of the very foundation of our democratic society and as primordial conditions for its progress and for the personal development of each of its members.

There can be no freedom of the press without freedom for the journalist. It is an obvious fact that can be overlooked: the quality and independence of a newspaper, and indeed all news media in general, is chiefly a function of the quality and independence of those who produce it.

It is therefore the state’s duty to protect journalists against any intimidation attempts and or acts of violence to which they could be exposed in the course of their work. In a country like ours, with our traditions, it is unacceptable that journalists may be harassed or threatened on account of their views. Nothing and one should be able to prevent them from freely transmitting the information they have acquired or the opinions they hold.

Let me assure you, Secretary-General, that whenever freedom of the press and communication is the target of attacks or pressure, I will be at your side. And you may immediately count on the full cooperation of all those who come under the authority of my ministry in the adoption of all appropriate measures in response to the facts described in your letter.

There is no excuse for such actions. No cause, no political or labour struggle can possibly justify this type of individual behaviour. Such acts should be treated for what they are. First and foremost, they are criminal acts that are punishable under the law.


Nicolas Sarkozy

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