The International Federation of Journalists today protested over action by police in Denmark who secretly tapped a telephone conversation between a reporter and his editor over a controversial story calling it "a profound and scandalous violation of journalists' rights."
The reporter working for Denmark's second-largest newspaper Jyllands-Posten was tapped while speaking with his editor about a story dealing with rumours of a hit list with names of Danish Jews that allegedly was circulating among radical Muslims.
The conversation was replayed on Monday during a Copenhagen city court hearing where reporter Stig Mathiessen was ordered to divulge to the police the name of his sources on the rumours. His newspaper is challenging the court order, demanding that journalists are allowed to protect their sources.
"This action by the police is not only an abuse of power, but it reflects the contempt that some senior officers have for the rights of journalists and media," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ. The IFJ said that the situation angered journalists even more because the recording was played in a secret court session. The newspaper, which is based in Aarhus, had reported on rumours circulating in the City, where there are significant Jewish and Arab communities, about a "death list" with names of Danish Jews. The report gave no other details on the list.
The newspaper says it would have contacted the police if it had "concrete evidence that could have hindered a serious crime," and added that it wasn't even certain whether such list actually exists. If Mathiessen and his employer refuse to disclose the source of the information they face fines or up to six months imprisonment. Under Danish law reporters are protected from revealing a confidential source unless the withheld information is crucial for a police investigation or involves a serious crime.
"This is yet another example of growing pressure on journalists to reveal their sources," said Aidan White, "Once again the authorities are using the media for 'fishing' expeditions for evidence and are violating fundamental rights in the process." The IFJ is supporting the Danish Union of Journalists, which has taken up the case.