Reporters Without Borders

The police asks a journalist to disclose his sources

Published on Friday 21 December 2001. .
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In a letter addressed to Bernard Bertossa, Attorney General of Geneva, Reporters sans frontières (RSF- Reporters Without Borders) expressed its concern about proceedings led against the daily "Le Courrier" on December 18, 2001 for "public incitement to violence" and about pressures exerted on the journalist Philippe Bach to have him disclose his sources.

"That complaint deliberately confuses a letter to the Editor praising violent actions against private property with the newspaper’s quite moderate answer. It is only instructed for it is stemming from the chief inspector and because the journalist knows the mail author’s identity. Exerting such a pressure on the journalist to have him disclose his sources cannot be admitted. The job and duty of a journalist is to inform and not to be compelled to behave like a justice or police auxiliary.  The principle of protecting sources is the sole guarantee of an independent inquisitive and investigative journalism", declared Robert Ménard, General Secretary of Reporters sans Frontières. "We ask you to give up the proceedings against "Le Courrier" and its editing staff", added M. Ménard.

According to the information gathered by RSF, Philippe Bach, editor at the local column of the Genevan daily Le Courrier, was summoned on December 18, by an inspector of the Genevan investigation Department further to a complaint against the newspaper for "incitement to violence", stemming from police inspector Christian Coquoz. The complaint refers to an answer of the Courrier, signed by Philippe Bach, to a letter from readers praising "direct actions" and drafting a list of the buildings assaulted in Geneva during the demonstration against the World Trade Organisation (OMC) on November10. Eventually, the inspector who had acknowledged his doubts about the validity of the accusation has asked Philippe Bach to disclose the identity of the letter signatories. What the journalist refuses to do, calling on the Chart of the journalist’s rights and duties and the provisions pertaining to the protection of sources acknowledged by the republic and canton of Geneva. The editor in chief of the Courrier, Manuel Grandjean, might also be summoned for some complementary investigation. The sentence incurred for the charges called upon includes imprisonment or deferred sentence in addition to fines.

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