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End Culture Of "Government Snooping" On Media


End culture of "government snooping" on media, says IFJ, as survey backs concern over protection of sources

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its regional group, the European Federation of Journalists, today warned of the increasing state interference in the media industry in Europe and around the word after a global study shows that many countries do not have adequate protection for journalists' sources.

"We see a disturbing and unacceptable level of intrusion by government authorities in media content," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "Increasingly security services and police are trying to identify journalists' sources. There is more evidence of systematic telephone tapping and much of this is carried out with the implementation of data retention laws under the pretext of the 'war on terrorism' or immigration policies."

The study of protection of journalists' sources, carried out by Privacy International, found that there is widespread legal recognition of the right around the world but in many places, including "democratic countries," protection of sources is increasingly under threat.

About 100 countries have adopted laws on protection of sources, which allow journalists to keep promises to confidential sources that their identities will not be revealed, the study said. In many jurisdictions, however, protection is undermined by regular use of search warrants on media offices and journalists' homes because few countries have specific legal protections on media-related searches. Protections are also weakened by the use of legal and illegal surveillance, the survey found.

The IFJ is seeing an increase in attacks on protection of sources and journalists' right to work without government surveillance. In recent cases in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal and France journalists have been brought to court, fined or jailed for not revealing their sources.

Last week in Sweden, a country that has a reputation as a strong protector of confidential sources and journalists' rights, police raided the offices of a TV station in Stockholm. The raid was staged to obtain a copy of a restaurant bill paid by a reporter at a meeting with a State secretary. According to the Swedish Union of Journalists, this was a serious breach of the constitution.

"A raid should only be allowed after a prior court decision," said Arne König, Chair of the European Federation of Journalists. "There should always be an ombudsman accompanying the police during the raid and afterwards when examining the documents. This is what is needed in the legislation so sources can feel confident when talking to journalists."

The Privacy International study is available at http://www.privacyinternational.org/silencingsources

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

ENDS

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