West’s freedom of press in question after arrests

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Two French press organizations have published a guide to journalists’ rights after repeated cases of reporters being called in for questioning by authorities or arrested. “Today we have to fight for the heart of our profession, the right to information,” the head of France’s Judicial Press Association (APJ), Jean-Philippe Deniau, said as he launched the guide in Paris.

Nine journalists and media executives have been summoned for questioning in recent months by France’s domestic security agency DGSI, according to Deniau. The development has been criticized by press freedom groups and journalists’ unions. The agency has been probing the leak of a secret military document that suggested French-supplied weapons may have been used against civilians in the Yemen conflict, contrary to government assurances.

A journalist with Le Monde newspaper as well as the president of its managing council were also summoned by the agency over a report that allegedly identified a member of the country’s special forces. Separately, several freelance journalists have recently been arrested during demonstrations, including protests by the yellow vests movement which have often degenerated into clashes with police. The guide explains journalists’ rights if they are arrested or called in for questioning, including their right not to name their sources and their right to remain silent if they are questioned as suspects.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government has defended the summons. “I am deeply attached to the freedom to inform,” government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye told Europe1 radio last month. “But journalists are subject to the justice system just like everyone else.”

Meanwhile, in Australia, the country’s three largest media organizations joined forces on Wednesday to demand law reforms that would prevent journalists from risking prison for doing their job, in reaction to recent police raids hunting government documents. News Corp. Australia, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) and Nine Entertainment released their demands for legal reforms following unprecedented police raids on consecutive days early this month at ABC’s Sydney headquarters and a News Corp. reporter’s Canberra home in search of leaked government documents.

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