Belgium : protection of sources under threats

Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens talks to the media at the end of an 'Extraordinary meeting of ministers for Justice and Security and representatives of the EU institutions' at the  European Council headquarters in Brussels, on March 24, 2016, two days after a triple bomb attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, hit Brussels' airport and the Maelbeek - Maalbeek metro station, killing 31 people and wounding 270 others. / AFP PHOTO / THIERRY CHARLIER

The European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ-IFJ) have alerted the Council of Europe about new worrying threats in Belgium against the protection of journalistic sources and the status of journalists.

The Minister of Justice of Belgium, Koen Geens, announced his intention to increase sentences for violation of professional secrecy, which would permit wiretapping or computer tracing of journalists’ sources. According to media reports, the Minister also has plans to allow intelligence services to “withdraw the protection linked to the status of professional journalist” if these services consider that the beneficiary of that legal status in Belgium is not really a journalist.

The EFJ-IFJ joined its Belgian affiliate AGJPB (AJP-VVJ) professional organisations of journalists to denounce these projects, arguing that they undermine the protection of journalists’ sources and the legal status of journalists. The General Association of Professional Journalists of Belgium (AGJPB) recalls that the status of professional journalist, in Belgium, is granted (supervised and withdrawn) by an independent commission of approval organised by law, and that it is therefore not the remit of intelligence services to interfere in an independent procedure.

Photo Credit: Thierry Charlier / AFP

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