French prosecutors probe media coverage of Paris attacks

Helicopters fly over buildings in Dammartin-en-Goele, north-east of Paris, after two brothers suspected of slaughtering 12 people in an Islamist attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were shot dead by police, on January 9, 2015 (AFP Photo/Dominique Faget) (AFP/File)

Paris (AFP) - Did French media endanger the life of a man in January by revealing he was hiding in a printing shop where two of the Charlie Hebdo attackers were facing off with special forces?

Prosecutors in the French capital have launched a probe into the handling of the news by TF1 and France 2 television stations, as well as RMC radio, following a complaint by Lilian Lepere, an employee at the printing shop in Dammartin-en-Goele near Paris, a judicial source said Tuesday.

For more than eight terrifying hours on January 9, Lepere hid under a sink in the building after the Kouachi brothers -- who two days earlier had massacred 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices -- burst into the shop and locked themselves in.

His boss had been taken hostage by Said and Cherif Kouachi, but they later released him and Lepere remained holed up under the sink, unwilling to move for fear of attracting the brothers' attention until they were gunned down by special forces.

France 2, TF1 and RMC all revealed that someone was hiding in the printing shop.

RMC radio interviewed Yves Albarello, the lawmaker representing the area, who made the revelation.

Lepere lodged a complaint last month and prosecutors launched a probe last week, the source said.

This is not the first time that French media have been criticised for the way they covered the January 7-9 attacks in and around Paris that left a total of 17 dead.

In February, the French broadcast regulator formally censured major TV and radio networks for serious "breaches" in their coverage of the event.

The warnings were issued for showing the Kouachi brothers shooting dead a policeman at close range and identifying the two gunmen despite official requests not to do so.

The regulator also slammed the live video feeds of the police assault on a Jewish supermarket on January 9, where a third gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, killed four shoppers and took others hostage.

BFMTV was also rapped for reporting that someone was hiding in the supermarket, and prosecutors launched a probe into this revelation in April after the former hostages accused the television network of putting their lives in danger.