The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today welcomed the publication of the draft law on the protection of sources of journalists, bloggers and "other opinion-makers" in the Netherlands, but said it was disappointed with some gaps in the legislation, which may go into effect as soon as the Parliament passes it.
On November 4, Dutch Minister of Justice Ernst Hirsch Ballin published a new law that provides legal protection for sources of journalists, bloggers and opinion-makers, in accordance with the European Convention of Human Rights and an extensive case-law of Court of Human Rights of Strasbourg.
"It is always good news when a law is passed that protects journalists' sources," said EFJ President Arne König, "but we see gaps in this one, particularly its provisions regarding surveillance such as tapping of electronic communication".
The Dutch Union of Journalists (NVJ) welcomed the law, which leaves a broad definition of people that will be covered, thus protecting journalism as an open profession. "We are pleased that our fight for better protection of sources has led to this initiative" declared Thomas Bruning, the General Secretary of NVJ.
In 2007, the European Court of Human Right ruled that the imprisonment of the Dutch journalist Koen Voskuil for refusing to disclose the identity of a source constituted a violation of the right to freedom of expression under art 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Dutch journalists are worried, however, by what the Justice Minister called "occasions when the public interest may outweigh the right to protect confidential sources". These cases may allow judges to make rulings which jeopardise journalists' rights.
"The limits of the right to protect sources are too broadly defined," declared the NVJ in a statement. "In our view, the only valid reason not to protect a journalist's confidential sources should be the prevention of serious crime."
Journalists are also disappointed that the law is limited to rights of journalists in court proceedings.
"Electronic data retention is a reality and even a legal obligation in the European Union. We see journalists' communication tapped or stored; sometimes their computers or phone are seized. In light of this, we do not understand why the law limits the protection to the testimony in Court", said EFJ President Arne König. "We hope these issues will also be tackled."
For more information contact the EFJ at +32 2 235 2200
The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in over 30 European countries