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France15 November 2006

In landmark decision, Paris court drops charges against journalist who revealed details of judicial investigation

A Paris court’s decision yesterday to drop charges against journalist Claude Ardid and lawyer Albert Lévy for revealing details of a judicial investigation into alleged corruption in school meal contracts in Toulon in 1998 was hailed today as a milestone by Reporters Without Borders.

Lévy had been charged with “violating the confidentiality of a judicial investigation” while Ardid was accused of abetting him.

Noting that the “only role” of journalists, “including in ongoing judicial cases, is to help inform the public,” the court ruled that “they should only be taken to task for any abuse of the freedom of expression (...) they may have committed, but not on account of any possible violation of confidentiality which helped to inform the public.”

“This ruling is a decisive step forward for press freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The court disregarded article 38 of the 1881 press law that says ‘it is forbidded to publish indictments or any other criminal procedural document’ in order to comply with article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The press freedom organisation added: “This evolution increases the freedom of journalists, specially in the area of investigation, and is therefore excellent news.”

Reporters Without Borders said it would ask justice minister Pascal Clément to keep the promise he gave at the beginning of the year to include the principle of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources in an overhaul of the 1881 press law.

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