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Proposed bill threatens media freedom and confidentiality of sources

(IFJ/IFEX) - 27 May 2009 - The European Federation of Journalist (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), today strongly protested against proposals for the draft legislation in Finland which would compel journalists to reveal their sources in certain criminal cases.

"This bill is unbelievable. Protection of sources is a cornerstone of independent journalism and the free flow of information. Journalists have to be certain that media freedom is secured and journalists' sources have to be sure their protection is guaranteed. Otherwise, the media are incapable of performing their duty in a democratic system," says Arto Nieminen, Chairman of the Union of Journalists of Finland.

A commission set up by the Finnish Ministries of Interior and Justice proposed disclosure of journalists' sources of information in criminal cases "involving a suspicion of serious breach of confidentiality". In such cases journalists could no longer be covered by the legal protection of the source which is guaranteed in current legislation and could be ordered by courts to reveal their sources of information even in preliminary investigations before the case goes to trial.

The current legislation allows for revealing the sources of a journalist in preliminary investigation only in criminal cases which carry a mandatory minimum of six years' imprisonment upon conviction. Such cases include robbery, aggravated violence and serious narcotic drug-related crimes.

"Confidentiality of journalists' sources is a press freedom right according to the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights," reminded the EFJ President Arne König. "This proposal is dangerous and we are particularly worried that it comes a few weeks after serious attacks on protection of sources in the UK and in Luxembourg. It has to be clear to everybody that journalist's sources need to be protected for the media to play their role of democracy watchdog."

The EFJ suggests that the law should explicitly include an exemption concerning the publication of information of vital interest for the public and it refers to the policy document that was recently published on its website:

The EFJ supports the Union of Journalists of Finland and calls on the authorities to respect press freedom and protection of sources.

The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in more than 30 countries of Europe.

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