Times have rarely been so difficult for French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Criticized in Europe and abroad for his tough handling of the Roma issue, weakened by conflict-of-interest allegations targeting his labor minister Eric Woerth, Sarkozy is now accused of illegally using the French secret service to identify a press informant.
In a press release published on its website, the French daily newspaper Le Monde accused Elysée, the president’s office, of spying on its journalists and having used “means that directly violate the law protecting journalists’ sources.”
Sylvie Kauffmann, chief editor of Le Monde, further detailed the accusations: “The news that we published on July 18 on the court hearing of Patrice de Maistre [financial manager for L’Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt] and how this put Eric Woerth in a difficult situation deeply irritated the Elysée. The order was then given to identify the informants of the Le Monde reports.”
This is yet another consequence of the complex Bettencourt scandal—now a state affair—that has mobilized all media outlets in the last four months, involving political donations, alleged tax evasion, money laundering, and whistleblower protection.In a quick reaction to Le Monde’s accusation, the General Directorate of the National Police (DGPN) said it had asked for interception of Le Monde communications in order to identify the staff member within the Ministry of Justice who would have leaked the information to Le Monde.
While DGPN said it had received orders from the national commission in charge of interception requests, the CNCIS, a CNCIS spokeperson told Le Monde that this was not the case.
Le Monde, a leading newspaper in France, announced it would file a lawsuit against Sarkozy’s office.