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Danish reporters face trial over bacteria story

This undated photo provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows plates of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).
This undated photo provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows plates of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).

AP Photo/Center for Disease Control

The International Press Institute (IPI) today [5 May 2014] expressed concern over pending criminal charges against two Danish journalists who say Denmark may be losing the fight against the spread of a strain of drug-resistant bacteria.

Sweden's Göteborgs-Posten reported, in an article posted in English by the Global Investigative Journalism Network, that Nils Mulvad and Kjeld Hansen of Investigative Reporting Denmark face trial tomorrow [6 May 2014] on the charge that they violated Danish law protecting personal information when they named 12 pig farms in Denmark as the sources of the spread of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The journalists did so in an Oct. 21, 2010 article posted on the website Aabenhedstinget.dk, a forum for debate on public law and journalism. The article reportedly focused the difficulty medical authorities in the city of Løgstør in Jutland faced in treating abscesses and ulcers in two children carrying MRSA.

The Göteborgs-Posten said that Mulvad and Hansen have been trying to obtain information on the spread of MRSA since 2010, but that the government has not been forthcoming. The newspaper reported that Denmark's Ombudsman, in a tentative report, rejected the government's efforts to keep that information secret, but that Mulvad and Hansen still face a fine if they are convicted of violating the data protection law.

“We are concerned that these two journalists face criminal convictions for revealing information that appears to be in the public interest,” IPI Senior Press Freedom Adviser Steven M. Ellis said. “We hope that authorities will drop these charges and take steps to make sure the Danish public is adequately informed about the true nature of an issue that could potentially have significant ramifications for public health.”

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