Reporters Without Borders is going to become a joint plaintiff in the complaint which Le Monde filed yesterday alleging that presidential aides directly violated a new law protecting the secrecy of journalists’ sources by using a domestic intelligence agency to identify an official who was leaking information to the newspaper.
The press freedom organisation has instructed its lawyer, Jean Martin, to arrange with the prosecutor-general’s office for it to be formally registered as co-plaintiff in the case, in which unnamed government officials are accused of various other criminal offences as well as violating the law on the secrecy of sources.
In its 13 September press release, Reporters Without Borders said violation of the law on the secrecy of sources by the Elysée Palace was unacceptable, especially as Nicolas Sarkozy had personally supported its adoption. Urging parliament to appoint a commission of enquiry into the allegations, the release deplored the “incomprehensible” war that the ruling majority seemed to be waging against investigative journalism.
Reporters Without Borders campaigned for years for a law explicitly protecting the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and appeared before both the National Assembly and the Senate when they examined the proposed law that was eventually adopted.
The organisation is outraged that covert police activity has trampled on the protection of sources enshrined in article 2 of this law. The authorities have a right to investigate leaks of confidential information but such investigations must be conducted according to the law. Any failure to respect the law protecting journalists’ sources must be punished or else it will be rendered meaningless.
In a 13 September article, Le Monde accused the Elysée Palace of using a domestic intelligence agency to identify an official who was leaking information about a judicial investigation into a case involving labour minister Eric Woerth and L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.
“The Elysée had recourse to procedures that directly violate the law on the protection of the secrecy of journalists’ sources” in an attempt to “put a stop to the leaks in this case,” Le Monde alleged.