European Journalists Call for Debate on “Sacred Principle” of Protection of Sources

The European Federation of Journalists, representing more than 200,000 journalists all over Europe, is calling for an urgent debate between journalists, media owners and politicians to strengthen the “sacred principle” of protection of sources.

“The revealing of David Kelly as the source for reports on UK governmental information to justify the war in Iraq raises new questions which must be answered,” says the EFJ.

“Nothing – besides severe crimes – justifies the disclosure of journalists’ sources,” says EFJ Chair, Gustl Glattfelder. “This is a “sacred principle” of professional rights, which has been affirmed by the European Court of Human Rights and which has also been recognized by the Council of Europe in its Recommendation R (2000) 7 on the rights of journalists not to disclose their sources of information.”

In some countries, even the death of a source does not free journalists from their obligation to maintain confidentiality. During the weekend, the BBC's director of news Richard Sambrook, revealed Kelly as a source for the controversial report, after discussions with his family.

In May, the EFJ initiated a campaign at its Annual Meeting in Prague to raise awareness of the dangers involved in protecting sources. “The recent developments in the UK seem to break another brick out of the wall of protection,” said Glattfelder. “Without this protection, journalists will not be able to fulfill their role as watchdogs of democracy. Without this protection, the “whistleblowers” giving confidential information to journalists will be silenced”.

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The EFJ, a regional organization of the International Federation of Journalists, represents over 200,000 journalists in more than 30 countries.