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Belgium


-  Area: 30,500 sq.km.
-  Population: 10,264,000
-  Languages: French, Dutch, German
-  Type of state: federal constitutional monarchy
-  Head of state: King Albert II
-  Head of government: Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt

Belgium - Annual Report 2003

Two journalists were convicted for not revealing their sources amid controversy about the subject, with a proposed law to protect such confidentiality and an appeal against the government to the European Court of Human Rights.

Two journalists of the daily paper De Morgen were ordered in May to pay a running fine until they revealed the source of a report about the Belgian Railways. A member of parliament for the French-speakers Democratic Front (FDF), Olivier Maingain, tabled a bill on 19 July stating the right of journalists not to disclose their sources and banning courts from forcing them to do so. At the end of the year, the bill was still being considered.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) agreed on 10 July to hear a complaint against the Belgian government by four journalists - Martine Ernst of RTBF, Alain Guillaume and René Hacquin of the daily paper Le Soir and Philippe Brewaeys of the weekly Le Soir illustré - for violation of their right to confidentiality by police raids in 1995 on their homes and on five newspaper offices.

A journalist arrested

Jose Masschelin, an investigative journalist specialising in legal scandals for the daily Het Laatste Nieuws, was arrested on 14 March and remanded in custody in prison in Ghent. His home in Ypres and the newspaper’s offices in Brussels were searched the same day. He was freed on 18March. In February, he had published extracts from the case file of a man accused of paedophilia.

Pressure and obstruction

Douglas de Coninck and Marc Vandermeir, of the daily De Morgen, were ordered by a Brussels court on 29 May to pay 25 euros for every hour they continued refusing to reveal their sources for an 11May article saying Belgian State Railways (SNCB) had overshot its budget to build a new high-speed train (TGV) station in Liège by 250 million euros. The court quashed the sentence on 8 June in view of a 26 March 1996 ECHR ruling that said protection of journalistic sources was one of the pillars of press freedom.



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see also
2003 Africa Annual Report
2003 Asia Annual Report
2003 Americas Annual Report
2003 North Africa and the Middle East Annual Report