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France2 April 2009

“Dangerous trend” condemned after anti-crime unit questions four journalists over Sarkozy video

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a “dangerous” increase in press freedom violations in France after four journalists were questioned by an anti-crime unit, the BDRP, yesterday in Paris about a widely-circulated video of President Nicolas Sarkozy talking informally to TV studio staff without realising he was being filmed.

“France holds the European record for police and court attempts to violate the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, with a total of six raids, three judicial investigations and more than 10 court summonses in the past two years,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Too many press freedom violations are taking place in France. This dangerous trend must be stopped.”

The video, which showed President Sarkozy in a France 3 TV studio on 30 June 2008 expressing irritation with a technician for his perceived impoliteness, was immediately posted on the Rue89 news website and other sites. The BDRP began investigating after France 3’s management filed a complaint alleging “theft, reception of stolen property and piracy.”

France 3 journalists Joseph Tual and Carine Azzopardi and Rue89 journalist Augustin Scalbert were questioned by the BDRP yesterday morning. Rue89 editor Pierre Haski was questioned in the afternoon. None of them was detained. Afterwards, the BDRP reportedly passed its findings to the Paris prosecutor’s office, which is to decide whether to go ahead with a prosecution.

“We have always refused to compare the press freedom situation in France with the situation in Russia, China or Burma, but this is too much,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The work of journalists needs to be better protected. Many journalists live in fear of being prosecuted and this is inacceptable in a country such as France.”

President Sarkozy was filmed prior to being interviewed for the France 3 programme 19/20. The management of France 3, which is state-owned, also held an internal investigation into how the video became available on the Internet, where it was seen by hundreds of thousands of people.




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