France9 October 2003
No to defence secrecy for French nuclear energy
Reporters Without Borders and ecology groups are calling on the French government to rescind a decree classifying information about nuclear material as defence secrets.
Two appeals were submitted to the French council of state on 9 October calling for the withdrawal of the decree on the "protection of national defence secrecy in the area of protection and control of nuclear material," which was signed by a senior defence official, Didier Lallemand, on 24 July 2003.
One of the petitions was presented by the ecological association Greenpeace and CRIIRAD, an independent institute for radiological research. WISE-Paris will add its name to this petition soon. The other petition was submitted by Reporters Without Borders and Writer-Journalists for Nature and the Environment (JNE). The Association of Environmental Journalists (AJE) has also decided to support it.
These groups accuse Lallemand of exceeding his authority by signing this decree, which attacks the basic freedom of expression and information. It falls to the legislature, not the executive, to regulate matters concerning a constitutional principle.
"Journalists are especially targeted by this decree, as they risk criminal penalties including prison sentence of up to five years if they report on matters falling within its provisions," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "The role of journalists is fundamental in informing the public in such sensitive areas as nuclear energy. They have a key role in the public debate."
Yannick Rousselet of Greenpeace France stressed that this was not just a squabble between Greenpeace and the French government. "The threat posed by the nuclear industry and, in particular, the transport of nuclear material, concerns all of France," Rousselet said. "This decree is a crude attempt to suppress the right of citizens to be informed about nuclear energy. The appeal we are filing today is a key moment in our campaign to eliminate the threat which this dangerous and unwarranted industry represents."
Sylvia Preuss-Laussinotte, one of Reporters Without Borders’ lawyers, said the decree was all the more surprising as France was one of the first countries to sign the Aarhus Convention of 25 June 1998, which affirms the right to be informed about the environment and which runs counter to the decree. She said the decree was also contrary to a European parliament and council directive adopted on 28 January 2003 about public access to information on the environment.