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IFJ welcomes court victory for protection of sources

(IFJ/IFEX) - 24 July 2009 - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and its Dutch affiliate, the NVJ, have welcomed yesterday's decision by the court in Amsterdam which ruled that tapping of journalist Jolande van der Graaf's telephone by the Dutch secret service (AIVD) during their investigation into a departmental leak was illegal.

"We have been appalled by the far-reaching investigations by the Dutch secret service and the surveillance of Ms van der Graaf and the tapping of her telephone as well as that of De Telegraaf's editor-in-chief," said Arne König, EFJ President. "We welcome this court victory for protection of sources which adds to an impressive case law in favour of protection of sources and press freedom in Europe. Therefore, we are most grateful to the Dutch Association of Journalists and the Dutch Editors' Society who supported this court action against illegal surveillance."

On March 28th, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf published a story claiming that, in the run-up to the Dutch government's decision to support the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the AIVD passed on misleading information to the Dutch cabinet.

The article contained information from classified AIVD documents that Ms van der Graaf had apparently received from an informant within the secret service. When the article was published, the AIVD began an investigation into the leak, including covert surveillance.

The AIVD asked Ms van der Graaf to return any secret document she possessed. When she refused to do so, the secret service raided her home and seized a number of items. De Telegraaf filed a complaint against the AIVD for illegal invasive surveillance, arguing that such measures should be undertaken only when there is an imminent threat to national security. As the documents pertained to events that had taken place many years earlier, lawyers for De Telegraaf asserted that no such immediate threat to the Dutch state existed.

In another case concerning the same issue, a judge in Haarlem decided that the AIVD was right to search the house of journalist van der Graaf. According to the judge, a journalist should not be in possession of classified material. When she refused to return the material, a house search was lawful, he concluded.

In the past year the IFJ and the EFJ have protested strongly over attacks on journalists' rights - particularly the cardinal principle of protection of sources - by the authorities in Italy, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. A series of scandals have led to arrests, unauthorised telephone tapping, and controversial prosecution of journalists.

These scandals led the EFJ to protest directly to the European Parliament and the European Union, calling for action to protect journalists from official pressure.

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