The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today welcomed the stunning victory in the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Hans-Martin Tillack, a reporter whose house and offices were raided by Belgian police on the urging of fraud investigators within the European Unions three years ago.
"At last this shocking violation of journalists' rights has been rectified," said Aidan White, EFJ General Secretary, who in 2004 sat alongside Tillack, a reporter for the German magazine Stern, while Belgian police trawled through boxes of his personal files in an efforts to find a whistleblower inside the European Commission who had fed him information about financial scandals. "Now we want to know who ordered the police to be called in and why have the Belgian police taken so long to come up with a report."
The EFJ, which supported Tillack in court cases against the Commission and in his appeal to the European Court, says the judgement once again reinforces the protection given by European law to journalists to protect their sources and against unlawful seizure of their material.
The EFJ says that a full report of who authorised the action against Tillack and who delivered the demands to the Belgian police to investigate him must be made by the European Union Anti-Fraud agency OLAF.
"It's time for OLAF to tell the full story," said White. "We can only draw a line under this case when we know that action has been taken to ensure this sort of vindictive acation against a reporter some people found troublesome will never be repeated."
Belgian police raided Tillack’s home and office and seized papers and confidential documents after OLAF officials complained about him, claiming that he had bribed officials for information about alleged fraud at the EU statistics agency, Eurostat, which he published in two articles in 2002. No evidence has emerged to sustain this complaint and three years after the searches there has been no official report and no charges brought against Tillack, who worked for Stern in Brussels from 1999 to 2004 covering EU affairs.
The case shocked journalists working in the Brussels’ press corps and increased fears within the European journalists’ community that government officials and national police forces have increasing disregard for protection of journalists’ sources.
For more information contact Aidan White at [email protected] or + 32 478 258 669
The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in over 30 countries