EFJ and API Blast "Spies" Smear As European Commission Targets Journalists

The

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the International Press

Association (API) representing foreign press correspondents in Brussels, today condemned a recent

statement by the European Commission’s security services which hints that

journalists and lobbyists can provide cover for potential spies to

search for sensitive and classified information.

 

“This

sort of loose talk ends up smearing everyone working in journalism by casting a

cloud of suspicion over them," said EFJ General Secretary Aidan

White. “Security concerns are one thing, but this sort of comment puts

journalists at risk and makes their job of scrutinising public officials and

the work of the Commission more difficult.  European Union officials

should do their jobs without raising scares about the honesty and

integrity of correspondents working in Brussels”.

 

The

European Commission fears that its confidential documents are increasingly at

risk from spies.  "We are not only pointing the finger at

journalists. It could be the pretty trainee with the long legs and the blonde

hair" Commission spokeswoman Valerie Rampi said yesterday  after

a report in the German newspaper the Frankfurter

Allgemeine Zeitung  quoted from a confidential letter from the

director of the commission's security services to its Director of human resources.

'Recent cases show that the threat of espionage is increasing day by day. A

number of countries, information seekers, lobbyists, journalists, private

agencies and other third parties are continuing to seek sensitive and

classified information’, said the  Commission memo, which dates back to

December.

 

“We

need to remind the Commission that investigative journalism is in the

public interest. Journalists have to look also for ‘sensitive and classified’

documents in order to inform the public and to place information in a truthful

context.  It is a legitimate and

essential part of a democracy to allow reporters to ask

searching questions and get access to documents some politicians and officials would

prefer for their own vested interests to keep out of sight,"

said Lorenzo Consoli, the President of API.

 

"The

Commission has a poor record of its treatment of investigative journalists. For

instance, we are still waiting for an official

response  from them to take responsibility and apologise over

their bogus complaint against German Stern reporter Hans-Martin

Tillack  who was cleared last month of wrong-doing in

his work to expose corruption in the European Union", said White.

 

The

EFJ has called on the Commission to investigate how its officials came to make

the false accusation of bribery against Tillack and to carry out an independent

inquiry into the case that for years cast a shadow over relations between Brussels journalists and

the Commission.  "Now the suggestion is that every journalist is a

potential spy -- it's the worst kind of scaremongering," said

White.   

 

The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists

in 30 countries.

API represents 500

journalist accredited to the EU Institutions

For

more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235.2202 or API at +32 473 746651