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New legislation threatens journalists' right to protect sources, says EFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 4 July 2007 media release from the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), an IFJ regional group:

EFJ Condemns Portuguese Lawmakers over Attacks on Protection of Sources and Authors' Rights

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today condemned the adoption of the new Journalist Statute by the Portuguese Parliament on 21 June 2007, accusing lawmakers of threatening journalists' rights to protect their sources by "recruiting journalists to do police work."

The law says that courts investigating offences such as threats to the security of the state and organized crime may order journalists to disclose their confidential sources, merely on the grounds that it would be difficult to obtain information by other means.

"This is completely unacceptable," said Arne König, EFJ Chair. "It gives the impression that journalists will be casually co-opted to do police work." The EFJ says there is an urgent need to get a more legally binding instrument on protection of sources within the European Union, similar to that being advocated in a draft resolution on protection of journalists' sources being considered within the European Parliament. "It seems the current EU Presidency must do their homework and get themselves into line with Council of Europe case law," said König.

The EFJ says the Portuguese provisions on confidential sources fly in the face of European Court of Human Rights judgements which have underpinned the notion of the journalists' right to protect their sources as a "cornerstone of press freedom".

The EFJ is also worried that the new law undermines journalists' and authors' rights. It provides the right for employers to use the works of staff journalists during a period of 30 days following the date of first publication without any special payment and also permits editors to make shorts versions of journalists' works.

"These provisions do not only prevent journalists from receiving fair payment for re-use of their work", said König, "they also weaken journalists' essential rights to determine where their work is re-used and to defend their work against damaging alterations, posing a threat to the integrity of journalism."

The EFJ has intervened to support the Portuguese Union of Journalists which has called on the President of Portugal not to sign the new law into effect.

The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in more than 30 countries.

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