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France28 November 2006

Three Midi Libre reporters under judicial investigation over leaked audit

Reporters Without Borders condemned the opening of a formal judicial investigation today into three journalists with the Montpellier-based daily Midi Libre on suspicion of “violating professional confidentiality.” It stems from a complaint by former Languedoc-Roussillon regional council president Jacques Blanc of the ruling UMP party over a leaked official audit.

“We very much hope a decision will be taken to press no charges in this case,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are very worried by the growing number of prosecutions of journalists in France and elsewhere in Europe on charges of abetting in the violation of professional confidentiality or the confidentiality of a judicial investigation.”

The press freedom organisation added: “In each of these cases, the aim has been to force journalists to reveal their sources and to limit the media’s field of action. They are evidence of a tendency for authorities to take a tougher line towards the press, which is why France was 35th in our annual worldwide press freedom ranking.”

Midi Libre editor Philippe Palat said his journalists were being hounded by the judicial authorities. “They are identified by name in the investigation that has been opened,” he told Reporters Without Borders. “This has but one aim, to force them to reveal their sources, something they will never do. We will not let ourselves be intimidated. We went on covering Jacques Blanc’s management of the region’s affairs in our columns and we continue to do so in the future.”

The Montpellier regional crime squad raided Midi Libre on 5 July and copied the contents of its computers’ hard disks in an attempt to discover how its journalists obtained a preliminary report by the Regional Accounting Commission on Blanc’s handling of the region’s finances from 1986 to 2004. Midi Libre published the report in its issues of 25 and 26 October 2005.

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