25 March 2004


IPI condemns journalist's detention

Incident details

Hans-Martin Tillack


(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 24 March 2004 IPI letter to Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Laurette Onkelinx:

H.E. Mr. Guy Verhofstadt
Prime Minister

Fax: +322-512 69 53 / 511 5021

H.E. Ms. Laurette Onkelinx
Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Justice

Fax: +322-230 10 67

Vienna, 24 March 2004

Your Excellencies,

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, strongly condemns the detention of Hans-Martin Tillack, Brussels correspondent for the German weekly magazine, Stern, and the police raid on his office.

On 19 March, Belgian police raided Tillack's home and office in Brussels, confiscating boxes of documents related to his journalistic work, as well as his computer and mobile phone. Tillack was taken away for questioning and detained for ten hours. According to information provided to IPI, the raid was ordered by a Belgian judge acting upon the request of the European Union's (EU) anti-fraud office, OLAF.

Already in 2002, OLAF alleged that Tillack paid for leaked information about one of its investigations into alleged wrongdoing at the European Commission, accusations which Tillack has denied.

Based on the information before IPI, it seems that the detention of Tillack, who was prevented from making contact with his employers or lawyer, was directly linked to his reporting on corruption in the European Parliament and at the EU statistics agency, Eurostat, and that the Belgian authorities were trying to pressure Tillack into exposing his sources of information.

IPI is particularly concerned that a Belgian court authorised the searches, which come at a time when a draft bill concerning the protection of journalists' sources is under discussion in your country. IPI would like to remind you that a number of police raids on Belgian media outlets and the private homes of journalists in 1995 resulted in a 2003 decision by the European Court of Human Rights defending the principle of protection of sources and ruling that there had been a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

IPI regards Tillack's detention and the search of his home and office as a flagrant violation of everyone's right to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers," as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a deliberate act aimed at silencing journalists trying to shed light on cases of corruption.

The ability to withhold a source of information is one of the fundamental elements of journalism. Without the guarantee of confidentiality, sources will no longer feel able to disclose matters of public interest, the media will not be able to effectively carry out their role in exposing abuses of power and democracy will be severely undermined.

IPI therefore urges Your Excellencies to ensure that the confiscated materials are returned immediately and that journalists working in Belgium are able to exercise their profession without fear of being searched or otherwise intimidated for disseminating information of public interest.

We thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Johann P. Fritz


International Press Institute
Spiegelgasse 2
1010 Vienna
ipi (@) freemedia.at
Fax:+ 43 1 5129014

IFEX members working in this country 1

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