French Newspaper Raids “A Shocking Abuse of Journalists’ Rights and Press Freedom” Says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists and its regional body the European Federation of Journalists today condemned a double police raid on two French newspapers as a “a shocking abuse of journalists rights.”

“It is a black day for democracy and press freedom when police storm into a newspaper and haul away computers to find out who reporters have been talking to,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.

Yesterday an examining magistrate led a team of ten police on a search of the weekly Le Point offices in Paris. At the same time a similar raid was being carried out at the offices of the sports daily l'Equipe.

“These raids are a violation of the right of journalists to protect their sources,” said White.

Police carried out the raids as part of an investigation into an alleged "violation of the confidentiality of an investigation" concerning a doping scandal involving the cycle team Cofidis. Earlier, Le Point published extracts from telephone conversations, which had been tapped as part of a police investigation into the doping scandal. L'Equipe last year published extensive extracts of official interviews with several Cofidis riders, some of whom were under investigation.

The IFJ says that journalists have a legitimate professional interest to follow closely these stories and to report without suffering any intimidation.

“It seems that the police are trawling through the files of newspapers to try to get the names and details of people who have been dealing with journalists on this story, “ said White. “That smacks of using reporters as an involuntary police force and threatens press freedom by scaring people from talking to journalists.”

The IFJ is campaigning across Europe for more respect of journalists’ right to protect their sources and is supporting the German journalist Hans Martin Tillack of Stern magazine in his battle with the European Union and the Belgian police over attempts to get information about his informants on financial corruption stories at the European Commission.

“Police must not go fishing through journalists’ files,” said White. “Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides protection for journalists and the police should be the first to respect that.”

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries