IFJ Calls on European Court to Guarantee Journalists' Right to Protection of Sources

The IFJ and its regional organisation, the European Federation of Journalists are calling on the European Court of Human Rights to protect the right of journalists to protect their sources when they examine a petition introduced by IFJ/EFJ affiliated AGJPB (General Association of Professional Journalists of Belgium), the SJPS (Society of Professional Journalists of Le Soir) and by 4 professional journalists against the Belgian state on Tuesday 25 June 2002, in Strasbourg.


According to our information, massive searches took place in June 1995 in 4 offices of Belgian media (Le Soir, Le Soir Illustré, RTBF in Liège and Brussels, and De Morgen) and in the private houses of 5 journalists (Philippe Brewaeys, Walter de Bock, Martine Ernst, René Haquin, Alain Guillaume). Dozens of files, floppy disks and hard disks of computers belonging to the journalists were confiscated. These searches only had one aim: to discover who, inside the authorities of the Belgian Justice, gave certain information to those journalists, regarding an ongoing investigation into "the Cools affair", which refers to the name of the Minister of State killed in Liège in 1991.


In 1996, the AGJPB and the affected journalists took the case to the European Court of Human Rights after the Belgian Supreme Court, in first and last instance, declared that the complaint was not admissible.


The EFJ refers back to previous decisions taken by the European Court of Human Rights, "cornerstone of the press freedom", (case "Goodwin" and "Canard enchaîné"), and the recommendation of the Council of Europe R (2000) 7 on the right of journalists not to disclose their sources of information adopted on March 8th 2000.


"This case is of crucial importance to the European journalism community", said Gustl Glattfelder, Chairman of the EFJ, "not only for the freedom to inform and for journalists in Belgium, but also for all member countries of the Council of Europe that have to include the decision in their national law."


At its annual meeting in Brussels last weekend, the European Federation of Journalists, which represents more than 200,000 journalists in 29 countries, passed an urgent motion on this case calling for representatives of its affiliated members to attend the hearing of the Court on 25 June, to disseminate the above information to their respective national media, and to show their solidarity and the importance of this case for the fundamental rights of the journalists and for press freedom in Europe, of which the protection of sources is a cornerstone.