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
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
The EFJ is the European group of the International Federation of Journalists
The EFJ represents more than 260,000 members in over 30 countries