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Denmark29 August 2002

Threat to a journalist’s right to protect sources

Reporters Without Borders has issued a protest following today’s revelations by the managing editor of the Danish daily newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten that one of his journalists, Stig Matthiesen, has had his telephone tapped and has been ordered by a court to reveal his sources of information among Islamic circles in Denmark.

"We view this as one of the most serious threats to freedom of information to emerge in Europe in these past few months as part of the antiterrorist campaign", Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard wrote in a letter today to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

"The significance of this development cannot be understated", Ménard continued. "What was formerly the most liberal European country in matters of the press, Denmark, is now having recourse to the worst methods to force a journalist to reveal his sources: telephone tapping, intimidation and the threat of a prison sentence". The letter urged the Prime Minister to intervene to stop these forms of pressure and restore respect for the confidentiality of journalistic sources, "the only guarantee of independent investigative journalism".

Several European Union countries, most recently the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and France, regularly defy European Court rulings on respect for journalistic sources, the pillar of press freedom. International bodies have also violated this basic principle, for example, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia which on 9 June ordered former Washington Post reporter Jonathan Randal to testify against his will before the court.

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