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France5 November 2007

Concerns about threats to press freedom in France as Europe marks ‘stand up for journalism’ day

Reporters Without Borders today spelled out its concerns about press freedom in France as journalists’ unions demonstrated as part of a European action day, “Stand up for Journalism”.

The worldwide press freedom organisation is seeking a raft of reforms which would allow journalists to work in a “positive environment”.

These were a guarantee of journalists’ right to protect their sources, better access to public information and changes to laws obstructing the right to be informed and to inform the public. These laws included ‘protection of private life’ and the offence of receiving information which violates professional confidentiality or the confidentiality of an investigation.

“France made 31st place out of 169 countries in our latest world press freedom rankings with only Spain, Italy, Romania, Cyprus, Poland and Bulgaria doing worse within the European Union,” the organisation pointed out.

Reasons for this ranking were searches at media offices, including in May 2007 at the satirical newspaper Canard Enchaîné, and summonses and criminal investigations of journalists such as summonses against journalists at France 3 Sud television and the daily paper Midi Libre issued by the SRPJ police in Montpellier this July. There had also been some cases of censorship, including the killing of an article about Cécilia Sarkozy in the Journal Du Dimanche (JDD) in May this year.

Reporters Without Borders issued a challenge to candidates to the April 2007 presidential elections about the state of press freedom in the country. Since then the organisation has made several representations to the government reminding it of the importance to France of improving working conditions for journalists and the need to guarantee the independence of the media in relation to political and economic authorities.

It also put concrete proposals to Justice Minister Rachida Dati and her office calling for amendments to some laws including those on protection of sources.

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