Libel suits by intelligence chief and Sarkozy aide over spying allegations

first_img News News Reporters Without Borders does not know whether to be amused or dismayed by the libel suits that presidential chief of staff Claude Guéant and domestic intelligence chief Bernard Squarcini have brought against the online newspaper Mediapart and the weekly Le Canard Enchaîné for accusing them of spying on journalists and tracking their phone calls. Guéant sued Mediapart yesterday. Squarcini sued Le Canard Enchaîné three days ago.“We would like to remind these two senior public servants that rather than take the aggressive approach by going to court, they are perfectly free to explain their actions, to argue and to deny the articles they disagree with,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “Press freedom exists for newspapers and for all citizens. We urge them to use it instead of baring their teeth.”“It is clear that they are trying to intimidate. Squarcini’s lawyer recognised this when he warned other journalists not to repeat the allegations made in the offending article in Le Canard. The most incredible aspect of this situation is that it is now up to the journalist to justify themselves. Libel suits reverse the burden of proof. They put the defendants, in this case Mediapart and Le Canard, under an obligation to demonstrate their good faith.”These two media will have to establish that they acted out of a legitimate desire to provide information, conducted a serious investigation, stated the facts in a prudent manner, and did so without personal animosity. These are the four elements that constitute good faith.“In such a sensitive case, one that affects the government at the highest level and involves conflicts of interest and spying, it may not be easy for the two newspapers to convince the judges that these four principles were satisfied, especially if the judges fail to take account of the specific characteristics of the case and the fact that the subject matter of the articles was of exceptional public interest.”Reporters Without Borders has three specific requests. Firstly, it calls for Squarcini to be questioned by the National Assembly. Secondly, it urges the mobile phone companies to respond to the alarming allegations that they readily surrendered call records.And thirdly, it calls on the authorities to follow the recommendations of the National Commission for the Control of Security Intercepts (CNCIS), which were indirectly confirmed in a recent note from the prime minister’s office. The CNCIS is an independent oversight body that was set up in July 1991 to supervise the monitoring of phone calls. It was created in response to a European Court of Human Rights ruling (24 April 1990, Huvig and Kruslin v. France) that France violated the right to privacy (article 8 of the European Convention) in a phone-tapping case.The head of the Central Directorate for Internal Intelligence (DCRI), Squarcini is suing Le Canard’s publisher, Michel Gaillard, and its editor, Claude Angeli, who wrote the offending article accusing him of supervising the illegal surveillance of journalists. Guéant, whose official title is secretary-general of the Elysée Palace, is suing Mediapart for accusing him of supervising the surveillance of two of its journalists.Chronology of spying allegationsSeptember:- Le Monde accuses the Elysée of using the domestic intelligence services to identify David Sénat, an adviser to the justice minister, as a source for Le Monde reporter Gérard Davet’s articles about alleged illegal financing of the ruling party by L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. – Le Monde brings a criminal action accusing “persons unknown” of violating the confidentiality of its sources.- The National Commission for the Control of Security Intercepts says the police obtained Sénat’s phone records illegally.October:- The computers of Le Monde journalist Gérard Davet and Le Point journalist Hervé Gattegno are stolen. Two Mediapart laptops are also stolen.November:- It is alleged that journalists working on the Bettencourt story and another story have been the target of GPS tracking by the intelligence services in an attempt to identify their sources.- France Info reports that the prime minister’s office sent a memo to the interior ministry in October reminding the intelligence services that it is illegal for them to obtain detailed copies of clients’ phone bills directly from telephone companies.France is ranked 44th out of 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. There is every chance that it could fall even lower next year. RSF denounces Total’s retaliation against Le Monde for Myanmar story RSF_en November 13, 2010 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Libel suits by intelligence chief and Sarkozy aide over spying allegations FranceEurope – Central Asia May 10, 2021 Find out more Follow the news on France Receive email alerts Newscenter_img June 4, 2021 Find out more June 2, 2021 Find out more Organisation News Use the Digital Services Act to make democracy prevail over platform interests, RSF tells EU “We’ll hold Ilham Aliyev personally responsible if anything happens to this blogger in France” RSF says FranceEurope – Central Asia Help by sharing this information to go furtherlast_img read more