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Le Monde sues office of President Sarkozy for spying

The row over an alleged attack on press freedom by French president Nicolas Sarkozy continues this week after it was confirmed by police that a senior official has been implicated as part of an investigation into leaked information.

According to a BBC News report, French newspaper Le Monde is to file a lawsuit accusing the office of President Sarkozy of spying on its journalists, claiming it understands an intelligence service was used to identify one its sources in relation to a story ran in July.

The report in question by Le Monde linked a minister to an investigation by authorities into L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and donations to Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign. The president’s office reportedly rejects the claims made by the paper.

Following the news of legal action, press freedom group Reporters Without Borders pledged its support to Le Monde.

If the Elysée Palace really ordered government personnel to violate the law on the secrecy of sources in the Woerth-Bettencourt case, it would constitute a violation of press freedom as serious as tapping journalists’ telephones.

We offer Le Monde all our support in its determination to establish whether the government violated the confidentiality of sources. These allegations must be treated with the utmost seriousness. Reinforcing the protection of journalists’ sources was one of Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign promises and a law was even voted in January. It would be intolerable if the Elysée Palace were the first to break a law requested by the president.

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