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Police search media offices; calls into question the issue of the protection of sources



Belgian police searched the offices of the daily newspapers "Le
Soir" and "De Morgen", of the magazine "Le Soir Illustre" and of
the radio and television network RTBF (in Brussels and in Liege)
on 23 June 1995. The homes of several journalists from these
media covering the judicial inquiry into the Agusta defence
contracts scandal were also searched. Police conducted full
searches and seized documents including notebooks, loose sheets
of paper, letters, and photocopies. This operation was justified
by authorities as a search for possible leaks from magistrates to
the media, leaks which are in violation of the confidentiality of
the probe into the Agusta scandal.

According to RSF, these incidents once again raise the question
of the conflict between the principles of confidentiality of
legal investigations ("secret de l'instruction") and of
journalists to protect their sources. The protection of sources
forms the basis of work in a field such as journalism. RSF says
it guarantees the quality of information and preserves the
credibility of the profession in the eyes of its sources. In
Belgium, as elsewhere, the work of a journalist already risks
being equated with that of a police officer or judge. RSF points
out that by preserving the distinction through a journalist's
right to protect her/his sources, the interests of justice as
well as of press freedom are served.





Recommended Action


Send appeals to Belgian authorities:
  • denouncing any initiatives, in law or in practice, which
    infringe on the right of journalists to protect their sources
  • asking that they ensure that interventions in this particularly
    sensitive area, such as these recent searches by Belgian police,
    be avoided
  • urging that the right of journalists to protect their sources be
    respected in future





    Appeals To



    Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene
    16, rue de la Loi
    1040 Brussels, Belgium
    Fax: +32 2 512 69 53 or +32 2 511 50 21






    Please copy appeals to the originator if possible.




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