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Belgium31 May 2002

Two journalists fined for refusing to reveal their sources

Two reporters on the Belgian daily paper De Morgen, Douglas de Coninck and Marc Vendermeir, were ordered on 29 May by a Brussels court to pay 25 euros for every hour they continued refusing to reveal their sources for an 11 May article saying Belgian State Railways had overshot its budget to build a new high-speed train (TGV) station in Liège by 250 million euros.

"The court has flouted with astonishing impudence the right not to reveal journalistic sources and the pressure on these journalists is intolerable," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter today to Belgian justice minister Marc Verwilghen.

"We remind you that confidentiality of journalists’ sources is one of the key principles of press freedom and that democratic countries respect this right. We also remind you that the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) monitors whether member-states respect it. We urge you to ensure it is not infringed in Belgium."

On 25 June, the ECHR is due to consider another violation of confidentiality of sources, dating from 1995 and based on a complaint by the Belgian General Association of Professional Journalists (AGJPB). The court frequently condemns countries for not respecting this right.

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