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France21 June 2006

Prime Minister sues fourth journalist over Clearstream allegations

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin yesterday brought a libel suit against journalist Airy Routier, the author of a book about the Clearstream affair entitled “Complot des paranos,” and against his publisher, Albin Michel. Routier is the fourth journalist to be sued by the prime minister in connection with this case.

21 of june

Government told that ‘deeds not words’ will protect press freedom

Reporters Without Borders has voiced disappointment at the French government’s apparent failure to act on its promise to allow journalists to protect their sources of information.

The press freedom organisation said that remarks made by the justice minister on 20 June simply repeated what had been announced in a New Year message to the press on 11 January 2006 and in even less definite terms.

“There has been no concrete progress since then and no law has been drafted on the issue. We hope that parliamentarians will get back onto this case in the autumn,” the press freedom organisation said.

“We have doubts about whether the government really wants to protect press freedom in France, when the Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin had just laid a complaint for defamation against three journalists.

“Mr de Villepin’s decision just confuses the justice minister’s message”, it said. “To our knowledge, no prime minister while in office has ever acted against the press before Mr de Villepin, and the presidents of the 5th Republic had promised never to do so,” it added.

French Justice Minister, Pascal Clément, said on 11 January 2006, that the right to protect sources was to be included in the press law of 29 July 1881. Reporters Without Borders had welcomed the initiative which it hailed as “real progress” explaining that journalists would get the advantage of increased guarantees, particularly during searches of their homes.

But at a conference in Paris on 20 June, organised by the organisation, Presse-Liberté, Mr Clément said he “was hoping” to include the right of protection of sources, when he had said in January it would indeed be inscribed in law.

He also said that he was “contemplating” extending the same rules about searches of press business premises to the homes of journalists. In his January speech, the minister had promised to do so.

Meanwhile, on 19 June, Mr de Villepin launched libel proceedings against Denis Robert, journalist and writer, author of several books on the Clearstream case - involving faked bribery allegations against senior politicians - the latest of which, “Clearstream, the Investigation”, has been temporarily withdrawn from sale.

The prime minister is also suing Jean-Marie Pontaut and Gilles Gaetner, authors of “Showdown at the Elysee”. They are respectively editor and deputy editor of the investigative service of the weekly L’Express.

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