France: EFJ Condemns Mounting Threats to Protection of Journalists' Sources in France
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned that France risks becoming the European champion in violation of the confidentiality of journalists' sources, one of the tenets of independent press in a country governed by the rule of law.
"One case of attacks against the protection of sources follows the other," said EFJ Chair Arne König. "We condemn this series of attacks and are concerned about the trivialization of these threats to freedom of the press, even though a specific law on protection of sources was passed in 2010."
The EFJ denounced on two occasions the first case concerning the French daily Le Monde in the Woerth-Bettencourt "soap" which led to the indictment of the head of the French intelligence, Bernard Squarcini, for "breach of confidentiality of correspondence," "illegal collection of data" and "illegal possession of professional secrecy" in flagrant violation of the French law on protection of sources.
While Mr. Squarcini benefits from the presumption of innocence, there seems to be indications that a request was made to the telephone company to produce the phone bills of a journalist working for Le Monde to be examined in detail in order to identify his sources in this case.
One of the EFJ members unions in France, the SNJ-CGT, called for Mr. Squarcini's immediate resignation and asked the Government to review the law on the protection of sources (much less demanding than the European regulations) as soon as possible.
The second case has arisen, again in relation to journalists of Le Monde, after the Prosecutor of Marseille had obtained from a telephone company the journalists phones' invoices to identify their sources in a case of organised crime in Corsica.
The law of 2 January 2010 states that "the confidentiality of sources can be directly or indirectly affected only if an overriding public interest justifies it". The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights has also confirmed that protection of sources is an essential element of press freedom.
The EFJ calls on the French authorities to take all the measures necessary to prevent the agencies in charge of enforcing the law from breaking the law themselves.
The Federation plan to refer these cases to the European Commission which constitute a serious obstacle to the freedom of journalists and to the free flow of information in the EU, in flagrant contradiction with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, including press freedom.
EFJ members in France are the Syndicat national des journalistes (SNJ), the Syndicat national des journalistes SNJ-CGT and the USJ-CFDT.