The European Federation of Journalists welcomed a breakthrough decision for the protection of sources in Belgium. The EFJ congratulated the General Association of Professional Journalists in Belgium (AGJPB) following yesterday’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, in the case of ‘Ernst and Others versus Belgium’.
The origin of the case came after a series of massive searches, which took place in June 1995 in 4 offices of Belgian media (Le Soir, Le Soir Illustré, RTBF in Liège and Brussels, and De Morgen) and in the private houses of 5 journalists (Philippe Brewaeys, Walter de Bock, Martine Ernst, René Haquin, Alain Guillaume).
In 1996, the EFJ affiliate AGJPB/AVBB and the affected journalists took the case to the European Court of Human Rights after the Belgian Supreme Court, in first and last instance, declared that the complaint was not admissible.
On June 25 2002, a petition was introduced by the AGJPB/AVBB, the SJPS (Society of Professional Journalists of Le Soir) along with 4 affected journalists against the Belgian state in Strasbourg. The court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“This case has implications for every journalist working in Europe,” said Renate Schroeder, Director of the EFJ. “ It confirms that the freedom to inform and to maintain professional standards of quality and accuracy form benchmark decisions for journalism in Europe.”
“This victory gives journalists, lawyers and also the employers the confidence in defending their rights and duties in order to make protection of sources a media reality,” she said.
Martine Simonis, national secretary of the AGJPB, said that while there is a need to appreciate the result achieved by the European Court of Human Rights, progress must be made in order to construct a specific Belgian law protecting journalistic sources. The EFJ is campaigning for similar initiatives in every country of the Council of Europe.
The EFJ, a regional organisation of the International federation of Journalists, represents more than 300,000 journalists in 31 European countries.
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