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France18 November 2008

Concern about journalist’s indictment for “violating confidentiality of judicial investigation”

Reporters Without Borders is concerned about yesterday’s indictment of a journalist employed by the Nouvelle République du Centre Ouest (NRCO), a newspaper based in the western city of Poitiers, for allegedly violating the confidentiality of a murder investigation.

The press freedom organisation takes the view that the indictment poses a challenge to the principle of investigative journalism, as the media have a duty to report facts that help to inform the public.

“In a country where the press has traditionally played an important role in protecting freedoms, the charge of ‘violating the confidentiality of a judicial investigation’ is used too often to punish journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This worrying situation must stop at once. The number of journalists being prosecuted in France in connection with their work is disturbing.”

The organisation added : “Investigative journalism must be protected by the law. This is why we have been campaigning for the reinforcement of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources. The draft law currently before parliament will unfortunately not do this.”

An NRCO staff reporter and two reporters from the Centre Presse - an NRCO sister newspaper - were summoned to the law court building in Poitiers yesterday while around 100 people demonstrated outside in a show of solidarity with the journalists. All three were questioned but only the NRCO reporter was indicted.

Both newspapers were searched on 30 September in connection in the same case, stemming from their publication in June 2007 of articles about a young woman’s murder that revealed the content of a psychiatric examination of the main suspect, and its conclusion that he was not responsible for his actions.

Announcing last month that it intended to be “extremely vigilant” about press freedom in France, Reporters Without Borders said : “For the past two years, France has held the European record for police and judicial actions linked to the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, with five raids, two indictments and four summonses.”

Reporters Without Borders and the online newspaper Mediapart are organising an evening event dedicated to the defence of a free and independent press in the Théâtre National de la Colline in Paris on 24 November (starting an 8 p.m.).

In a joint release on 14 November, they said : “At a time when the Elysée Palace claims to be consulting with the media about an overall information system remodelling, we think there is an urgent need for other voices to be heard. The voices of readers, obviously, but also the voices of journalists, bloggers and intellectuals who have largely been left out of the current process.”




 
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