The European Federation of Journalists today welcomed the proposal by the French Minister of Justice Pascal Clément to strengthen the right of journalists to protect their sources in France by writing this protection into the country’s 125 year old press law.
“Looked at from afar, one might say that the law says too much about what the press can or cannot do in France,” said Arne König, EFJ Chair, “But this addition to the legislation will give added protection to journalists who are protecting their sources and that’s an important step in the right direction.”
Pascal Clément, made his announcement at a meeting organised by French publishers in Paris yesterday which was addressed by EFJ General Secretary Aidan White, who argued strongly for less judicial control of the press and more editorial independence – including recognition of a single journalists’ code of conduct for journalists and its inclusion in the country’s national labour agreement.
“When it comes to ethical conduct or protection of sources, the best solutions are simple and pragmatic measures which recognise editorial rights,” he said.
He said that France’s intrusive legal approach to press freedom and privacy, for instance, contrasted with that in some other European countries, notably Sweden and Great Britain, where privacy laws don’t apply. But strengthening the legal basis for protection of sources, which has been promised for some time, is long overdue in France.
Protection of sources is not explicitly mentioned in the 1881 Press Law, but simply referred to in the penal procedure code on protection of sources during testimony in court cases.
According to Pascal Clément, judges would be able to keep journalists’ files under seal until a decision is taken and the same measure would apply to collaborators such as translators and technicians.
Journalists hope that this amendment will be proposed to the Parliament after the summer-break and that unions will be fully associated to the works to implement this principle both in the press law and in the code of penal procedure.
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The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in over 30 countries worldwide