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Belgian prosecutors dismiss complaint brought by European Anti-Fraud Office against journalist

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 6 January 2009 media release of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), an IFJ regional group:

EFJ Calls on European Union to "Tell Whole Truth" As Journalist is Cleared of Corruption

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), today welcomed the decision of Belgian prosecutors to dismiss a complaint of bribery brought by the European Anti-Fraud Office against a Brussels-based journalist.

After five years, Belgium has finally cleared journalist Hans-Martin Tillack, a reporter for Stern Magazine, over a complaint against him launched from within the European Union hierarchy.

"Although the apparent intent was to uncover an insider who was feeding him information, nonsensical allegations of bribery originating from inside the European Commission were clearly an attempt to discredit him, his character and his journalism," said Aidan White, EFJ/IFJ General Secretary in Brussels.

According to Tillack's lawyer, a Brussels judge today dismissed the complaint against him for lack of evidence.

Tillack was first accused in 2002 of bribing an unidentified European Union official when he was working in Brussels. A complaint to Belgian police led to raids on his home and office and seizure of his files, telephones and computer material. A similar complaint, lodged with the German police, was dismissed within months.

The European Court of Human Rights in 2007 condemned the police action saying they breached the journalist's right to protect his sources and ordered the Belgian government to pay him 40.000 Euro and 10.000 Euro in material and moral damages respectively.

The EFJ/IFJ criticised the Belgian police inquiry but said that the original complaints were laid deliberately, not just to identify an unofficial source within the European bureaucracy, "but to intimidate the reporter and to constrain his work of investigating corruption and wrongdoing."

The EFJ/IFJ has called on the European Union authorities to respond to the latest court decision by taking responsibility for the mistakes made by its officials, by apologising to the journalist and by carrying out an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of a controversy that has for years cast a shadow over relations between Brussels journalists and the Commission.

"It is now time to tell the whole truth about how and why these complaints were made," said White. "There should be an independent inquiry, those who made mistakes and acted irresponsibly should be held to account, and there should be full apologies for this tawdry story of politics and policing."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide.

Updates the Tillack case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/88014

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