EFJ strongly condemns attack on protection of sources in Germany

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its regional group, the European Federation of Journalists today fiercely condemned the preliminary proceedings against 17 journalists in connection with the committee of inquiry of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) in Germany.

The IFJ and EFJ joined their German affiliates, the Deutscher Journalisten Verband and Deutsche Journalisten Union in ver.di, in criticising this move. According to the EFJ/IFJ this contradicts the recent judgement by the German Federal Constitutional Court in the case of Cicero, and therefore is ‘constitutionally inadmissible’.

“This series of investigations is one of the most profound attacks on protection of sources there has been in Europe. This is a serious set-back,” said EFJ Chair Arne König. “The fact that it takes place in Germany, with their traditional respect for press freedom is most worrying. Especially German politicians should know better that protection of sources is an essential part of press freedom.”

According to Die Tagesschau of the ARD the proceedings are against journalists from Germany’s major newspapers including Der Spiegel, Die Zeit and Die Süddeutsche Zeitung. The investigation is based on articles and reports of the 17 journalists about the work of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) in the time between January and March 2007.

“In a week when UK journalists could celebrate the end of a seven year old battle over protection of sources, this latest event shows that the fight for protection of sources remains a major concern for journalists throughout Europe”, said Arne König referring to the ruling of the British House of Lords in favour of freelance journalist Robin Ackroyd (see IFJ release 01/08/2007).

In the past year the IFJ and the EFJ have protested strongly over attacks on journalists' rights -- particularly the cardinal principle of protection of sources -- by the authorities in Italy, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. A series of scandals have followed arrests, unauthorised telephone tapping, and controversial prosecution of journalists. These scandals led the EFJ to protest directly to the European Parliament and the European Union, calling for action to protect journalists from official pressure.