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Reporters Without Borders urges French legislators to reinforce a proposed new law on the confidentiality of journalists' sources following a Le Monde report that the police and judicial authorities tapped the phone one of its journalists, Gérard Davet, in March 2009.<br/>
"Le Monde's revelation of yet another case of spying on reporters should serve as a reminder to legislators of the need to provide much more protection for journalists' sources in the proposed law that a National Assembly committee is currently working on," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
"The tapping of Gérard Davet's phone shows that regulating the work of judges and police is essential so that journalists are not turned into police informants without their knowledge. By providing the proposed law's rapporteur, Marie-Anne Chapdelaine, with our recommendations, we have already drawn attention to the urgency of this problem."
This newly-revealed case dates back to 2006, when Davet and Piotr Smolar, another Le Monde reporter, wrote an article about the conditions in which a Parisian man, Ilan Halimi, was held captive and tortured for several weeks by a gang before being murdered.
The article was based on police reports of the interrogation of the suspects. One of the detained suspects filed a complaint accusing the police and Le Monde of violation the confidentiality of a judicial investigation.
At the request of Michèle Ganascia, the judge in charge of investigating this complaint, the IGS (the police internal investigation department) ordered France Télécom to provide lists of all the phone numbers that the two journalists called (and from which they received calls) on their fixed and mobile number between 15 February and 25 March 2006.
Then, on 26 February 2009, nearly three years after the disputed article's publication, Davet's phone was tapped for a month on Judge Ganascia's orders.
Davet told Reporters Without Borders he was the "victim of a form of persecution" that had made his "work as an investigative journalist extremely difficult." His phone records were seized three times in the space of two years, twice by the IGS and once by the Central Directorate for Internal Intelligence (DCRI).
In the middle of the Liliane Bettencourt affair, he was the victim of burglary in which confidential documents and his laptop were taken. But he said he thought "a further threshold was crossed" when his phone was tapped and that he regarded himself as the victim of "a double wrong, both professional and moral."
Reporters Without Borders offers Davet its full support in the various judicial initiatives that he and Le Monde have taken in these different cases.
The detailed recommendations that Reporters Without Borders made to National Assembly rapporteur Marie-Anne Chapdelaine on 4 September on the proposed law for reinforcing the protection of journalists' sources are available here in French. The six main points were:Make the exceptions to the protection of sources more restrictive Make violating the confidentiality of journalists' sources a specific crime Provide for more oversight by the judges who monitor police custody and detention Extend the protection of sources to bloggers as well as journalists Exempt journalists who obtain documents in the course of an investigation from the possibility of being accused of receiving stolen property Give journalists access to police custody and detention centres. <br/>