Monday, January 18, 2010

Auto Plus Magazine Raided by French Police after Espionage Complaint by Renault

So much for the freedom of press; French car magazine Auto Plus’ offices were raided by the police on Tuesday and a journalist was taken into custody as part of an official investigation into an industrial espionage complaint that was filed by French automaker Renault last August after the magazine published pictures and details of model not due to be launched for another three years.

Along with taking Auto Plus journalist Bruno Thomas into custody for questioning, French police officers also confiscated computers, hard disks and photographs from the magazine’s central offices. According to reports, an unnamed Renault employee is also under investigation for leaking pictures to the French magazine.

Although Renault did not give out any details on the leaked pictures obtained by Auto Plus, in a statement made by SNJ, one of the largest journalists unions in France, it was revealed that the model that triggered Renault’s fury was a future version of the Megane. Notably, over the past few months Auto plus has managed to obtain many inside pictures of the new Megane that’s scheduled to debut in Paris this fall.

Commenting on the filing of the complaint, a Renault spokesman said: "It kills creativity; you may as well just give our models to the newspapers and our competitors. What's the point of doing any research? The idea is not to attack Auto Plus but to cut off the sources that feed it, to find the source inhouse.”

Of course that’s not the way it was seen by two of the largest journalists' unions in France, SNJ and the press section of Force Ouvriere. “It is intolerable that journalists are treated like criminals when they simply exercise their job of informing the public. The custody of Bruno Thomas can not be used to make him reveal his sources”, SNJ said in a statement, the full text of which can be read below.

SNJ Statement (Web Translation from French)

The National Union of Journalists (SNJ) wishes to stigmatise the new and serious breach of the protection of journalists' sources that occurred on July 15 at Auto Plus.

The magazine has been a very long search and one of its journalists was in custody. Some computers were searched, copied disks and access to servers made.

The reason for this procedure, to say the least shocking, is a complaint filed by the manufacturer Renault after broadcasting pictures of one of its Megane model. Yet it is a specialty of this newspaper to give a "scoop" of information in his field.

Renault's complaint does not seek directly Auto Plus but would seek to identify its sources.

It is intolerable that journalists are treated like criminals while they simply exercising their profession Inform. The custody of Bernard Thomas can not be objective to put pressure on him to compel him to release his sources.

The SNJ is totally supportive of his colleague and undertake all steps to assist in this ordeal. The SNJ also supports the drafting of the magazine.

While France has years of delay on the law and European law on protection of journalists' sources, necessary arrangements in our country, even though the Parliament before it is finally a text on the issue, judges and investigators continue to regard the press as places where everything is permitted.

For the SNJ, this procedure should be the last.

Link: Auto Plus

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