23 March 2005


European Federation of Journalists welcomes adoption of law on protection of journalists' sources

Incident details

legal action
(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 21 March 2005 IFJ media release:

European Journalists Welcome "Landmark Victory" in Belgium for Protection of Sources

The European Federation of Journalists today welcomed the adoption of a long overdue law on protection of journalists' sources in Belgium, which was voted unanimously on March 17 by the Belgian Chamber of deputies.

"This is a landmark victory for our Belgian colleagues as well as for all European journalists who still do not have a legal guarantee over their protection of sources," said Arne König, Chair of the European Federation of Journalists. "It almost certainly would have avoided the police raid on the home and office of a Brussels reporter last year which shocked international journalists."

Due to a series of violations on the protection of sources during the last ten years journalists have been pressing for an urgent change in the law. A number of home searches, seizures, and even detention of journalists, had seen pressure on journalists to reveal their sources rise to unprecedented levels in the European Union.

The EFJ has welcomed the verdict of its affiliate in Belgium, the AGJPB/AVBB, that the new law will reverse the situation creating one of the best environments in Europe and around the world for journalists to protect their sources.

The law's main points are:

- Journalists have the right to silence when called as witness. They are explicitly protected against home searches, seizures, phone tapping and other investigations.

- It is now much more difficult to sue journalists: journalists cannot be sued any more for illegal detention of stolen documents or for complicity in the violation of professional secrecy by a third party.

- Judicial authorities can only force a journalist to reveal their sources "to prevent crimes that represent a serious attack on the physical integrity of one or several third parties" and only if the third party has a crucial interest to prevent these crimes and if it cannot be obtained in another way.

- This protection is not only granted to professional journalists but also to their media staff.

The AGJPB has expressed the hope this new law will be published soon in the "Moniteur" (The Belgian Official Journal) - the law is applicable ten days after publication - and that all police and judicial authorities will be informed within the shortest delay about the content and implications of the law.

The European Federation of Journalists represents over 260,000 members in more than 40 countries.


International Federation of Journalists
International Press Centre, Residence Palace
Bloc C, second floor, Rue de la Loi, 155
1040 Brussels, Belgium

Fax:+ 32 2 2352219

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