The offices of French magazine Auto Plus were raided on Tuesday by officials, accusing the magazine of industrial espionage against auto maker Renault.
When Auto Plus published pictures and details of a new model not due to launch for another three years, Renault retaliated with a complaint to authorities resulting in an investigation being launched since last August.
Just this past April Auto Plus published images of the next generation Renault Megane III, little did they know that an investigation against them was under way.
With the confiscation of computers, documents and the detainment of Auto Plus journalist, Bruno Thomas, two of the country's biggest journalists' unions, SNJ and the press section of Force Ouvriere have voiced strong complaints about prosecutors breaching reporters' source confidentiality particularly to non automotive sources.
Laurent Chiapello, editor of Auto Plus told Reuter, "By gaining access to the computers of our journalists, they gain access to all our sources and that poses a real problem to our way of working independently and not tied to the carmakers,"
"It's intolerable that journalists should be treated like criminals when they are just doing their job of informing the public," SNJ said in a statement.
Renault said the complaint was intended to protect its intellectual property.
"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?" a spokesman said.
"The idea is not to attack Auto Plus but to cut off the sources that feed it, to find the source inhouse."
Dangerous words from the Renault spokesman, sounding like a shakedown of Auto Plus to expose the mole within Renault – ultimately their own responsibility to the detriment of Auto Plus.
Further reports, put an unnamed Renault employee also under investigation for leaking pictures to the French magazine.