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President vetoes law threatening journalists' rights; harmful provisions still up for debate

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

EFJ Welcomes Portuguese President's Veto of Law Threatening Journalists' Rights

The International Federation of Journalists and its regional group the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today welcomed the recent decision of the President of Portugal to veto the new Journalist Statute, which threatened journalists' rights to protect their sources and undermined their authors' rights.

"We salute the President's reaction to this statute, which will protect press freedom and quality in Portugal," said Arne König, EFJ Chair. "We now call on the Portuguese Parliament to review the Journalist Statute in line with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, which has underpinned the notion of journalists' right to protect their sources as a 'cornerstone of press freedom'."

The Portuguese Union of Journalists, with the support of the EFJ, had called on the President of Portugal not to sign into effect the new Statute, which was adopted by the Portuguese Parliament on 21 June.

The law said that courts investigating offences such as threats to state security 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. The President of Portugal acknowledged that this provision contradicted provisions of the Criminal Code of Procedure on professional secrecy, leading to legal insecurity in a field he himself described as "particularly delicate to journalists' activity".

The EFJ also calls on the Portuguese Parliament to remove a provision allowing employers to use the works of staff journalists in any manner within their media holdings during a period of 30 days following the date of first publication and without any additional payment.

The Portuguese Union of Journalists just started a protest action against Portuguese media group Controlinvest who, anticipating the effects of the law, announced the September publication launch of a free newspaper made with the works of the group's journalists. Controlinvest has asked journalists from the most important newspapers of the group to sign away their rights.

"This case shows how the provision adopted in June would prevent journalists from receiving fair payment for re-use of their work and weaken journalists' essential rights to determine where their work is re-used", said König.

The journalist law will be debated again in Parliament in September.

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

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