France: EFJ Welcomes Legal Victory on Protection of Journalists’ Sources

The European Federation of Journalists

(EFJ), today welcomed a major legal victory for protection of journalists'

sources in France

in the ongoing "Woerth-Bettencourt" case, a high-profile scandal mixing

business and political financing.

The Appeal

Court (Cour de Cassation) ruled that judge Philippe

Courroye, who initiated a procedure to identify information leaks in the "Woerth-Bettencourt"

case in September 2010, had infringed the law on protection of sources by

trying to access detailed phone records of three journalists working at the

daily newspaper Le Monde.

"We welcome a decision that is in

line with case-law from the European Court of Human Rights," said Arne

König, EFJ President. "Finally French journalists can see a light at the

end of the tunnel after many cases that have violated the principle of protection

of sources in the country in recent months."

According

to today's ruling, "the infringement of the confidentiality of journalists' sources was not justified by the existence of an overriding public interest and the measure was not

strictly necessary and proportionate to

the legitimate aim pursued".

The

EFJ now hopes that this decision will help other colleagues to enforce their

rights. A reporter for the Tribune newspaper was summoned on 2

December 2011 by the French

financial watchdog (Autorité des Marchés Financiers, AMF)

for information about the allocation

of a railway contract in April 2010. Le Monde journalists had also been

subject to legal proceedings in Marseille in which a

prosecutor attempted to access telephone records as part of

a case relating to organised crime in Corsica. 

A French 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 EFJ has made clear on several occasions

that this law must be respected.

Case-law

from the European Court of Human Rights has also confirmed that protection of

sources is an essential element of press freedom.

EFJ

members in France

are the Syndicat national des journalistes (SNJ), the Syndicat national des

journalistes SNJ-CGT and the USJ-CFDT.

For more information, please contact EFJ on   + 32 2 235 22

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The EFJ is the European group of the International Federation of

Journalists
The EFJ represents more than 260.000 members in over 30 countries