France: Searches and seizures carried out at "L'Equipe" and "Le Point" newspapers were disproportionate to the interest of democratic society in ensuring and maintaining a free press
In today's (28/06/12) Chamber judgment in the case of Ressiot and Others v. France (application no. 15054/07), which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case concerned investigations carried out at the premises of L'Equipe and Le Point newspapers and at the homes of journalists accused of breaching the confidentiality of a judicial investigation. The authorities wanted to identify the source of the leaks in an investigation into possible doping in cycle racing. Searches were carried out at the newspaper offices and the journalists' homes: equipment was seized and lists of telephone calls were placed under seal. The five journalists were released for lack of evidence.
The Court found that the Government had not shown that a fair balance had been struck between the various interests involved. It reiterated that "the considerations to be taken into account by the Convention institutions for their review under paragraph 2 of Article 10 tip the balance of competing interests in favour of the interest of democratic society in securing a free press" (see Goodwin v. the United Kingdom). The measures taken were not reasonably proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued, having regard to the interest of a democratic society in ensuring and maintaining the freedom of the press.