The world's largest group of journalists today condemned a corporate attempt to seize control of The Guardian newspaper in Great Britain as a "grotesque and outrageous assault" on press freedom and journalists' rights.
The International Federation of Journalists and its regional group, the European Federation of Journalists, says the application by the Belgian-based international brewery company Interbrew, asking the British High Court to seize the assets of the newspaper for refusing to hand over a copy of a leaked document, posed a challenge to journalists throughout Europe and around the world.
"This unprecedented legal assault reflects a startling level of corporate arrogance," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the Brussels-based IFJ, "Freedom of expression appears to count for nothing as the company wages a private war against the journalists' right to report. It is a grotesque and outrageous assault on press freedom."
The IFJ said that it was asking journalists' unions throughout Europe to protest over the action which could lead to the Guardian facing a hefty fine or its assets being sequestrated. In Belgium, the journalists' association is taking up the case and protests have been sent to the company and to the Belgian authorities. The European Federation of Journalists has also asked the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the Belgian Government to reaffirm the importance of protecting journalists' rights to maintain confidentiality of their sources.
"This case touches the core of press rights. Journalistic ethics are already under intolerable pressure from corporate interests," said Aidan White, "It is time for politicians to speak up for press freedom in the face of this form of bullying from the business world."
The Guardian is one of four media organisations - including The Financial Times, Reuters and The Times - that have been targeted by Interbrew over reports based upon a document received anonymously that detailed a possible bid for South African Breweries.