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EFJ welcomes court ruling on protection of journalists' sources

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 16 July 2003 IFJ media release:

Belgian Victory for Protection of Sources

The European Federation of Journalists welcomed a breakthrough decision for the protection of sources in Belgium. The EFJ congratulated the General Association of Professional Journalists of Belgium (AGJPB) following yesterday's ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, in the case of 'Ernst and Others versus Belgium'.

The case originated after a series of massive searches, which 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 homes of 5 journalists (Philippe Brewaeys, Walter de Bock, Martine Ernst, René Haquin, Alain Guillaume).

In 1996, the EFJ affiliate AGJPB/AVBB 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.

On June 25 2002, a petition was introduced by the AGJPB/AVBB, the SJPS (Society of Professional Journalists of Le Soir) and 4 affected journalists against the Belgian state in Strasbourg. The court ruled unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"This case has implications for every journalist working in Europe," said Renate Schroeder, Director of the EFJ. " It confirms that the freedom to inform and to maintain professional standards of quality and accuracy form benchmark decisions for journalism in Europe."

"This victory gives journalists, lawyers and also the employers the confidence in defending their rights and duties in order to make protection of sources a media reality," she said.

Martine Simonis, AGJPB national secretary, said that while the result achieved by the European Court of Human Rights should be welcomed, progress must be made in order to construct a specific Belgian law protecting journalistic sources.

The EFJ is campaigning for similar initiatives in every country of the Council of Europe.

For more information, see:
http://www.echr.coe.int/eng/press/2003/feb/roemen%26schmit25022003judeng.htm
http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Issue=SOURCES&Language=EN

The EFJ, a regional organisation of the International federation of Journalists, represents more than 300,000 journalists in 31 European countries.

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