Journalists Welcome Milestone German judgement in favour of Protection of Sources

Journalists across Europe were today celebrating a landmark judgement by Germany's Constitutional Court which has condemned a raid on a political magazine by the authorities as a violation of press rights.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined their German affiliates, the Deutscher Journalisten Verband and Deutsche Journalisten Union in ver.di, in applauding yesterday's judgement by the German Federal Constitutional Court in the case Cicero calling it a "significant milestone " in the struggle for independence and press freedom in the newsroom of Europe.

The German judges found that the raid and search by police of the editorial offices of the magazine Cicero in September 2005 was “a serious interference of press freedom”. The President of the Court said that in future such searches and seizures of material in an inquiry against media workers would be constitutionally inadmissible.

“After a year of depressing interventions against journalists' rights, this is good news for press freedom in Europe and beyond,” said EFJ Chair Arne König. “This judgement makes state interference in journalism more difficult and strikes a blow for ethical and quality reporting everywhere.”

Over 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, which led the EFJ to protest directly to the European Parliament and the European Union, calling for action to protect journalists from official pressure.

“At last we have some recognition that protection of sources and the journalists' right to report free of official intimidation needs fresh protection,” said König. "We hope now to see a change of mood within the police and security agencies, not just in Germany, that will put an end to the widespread pressure that has been put upon investigative journalism across the region.”

In December three journalists were acquitted in a controversial Danish case over press rights. At the time the IFJ and EFJ said the decision should signal a European-wide fight-back against governmental and official pressure on journalists in a number of European Union countries in 2006.

In late November 2006, two journalists were briefly jailed in the Netherlands when they refused to name their sources in a case against an agent suspected of leaking secret dossiers from the Dutch intelligence service to the underworld. Earlier in the year, the Dutch government said it would stop its surveillance of journalist communications and the German government said it would remove spies that it had placed in newsrooms to stop leaks to the press. In the UK, the government has said it is planning to strengthen official secrecy laws to prevent whistleblowers from revealing information about government policy. Latvia, Ireland and Italy also saw actions last year, both legal and illegal, by officials trying to discover who journalists were talking to.

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The EFJ represents more than 260,000 journalists in over 30 countries