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Two journalists in jail defending freedom of press in .NL


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Two dutch journalists wrote several articles about Mink K., a well-known criminal turned informant to the AIVD, the dutch equivalent of the NSA. For their articles, they used leaked AIVD dossiers that are said to contain state secrets.

The AIVD tapped the journalists phones in an attempt to find out who their source was. When these practices were uncovered, a small row ensued about the legitimacy of these actions. A court switfly ruled that these practices had to stop immediately and all gathered evidence be destroyed. On appeal, the higher court ruled that while the AIVD retains the privilege to tap peoples' phones (given certain provisions) they should be "most reluctant" to use these practices on journalists. An internal review board within the AIVD was to rule on the legitimacy of the acquired evidence, and should they rule the evidence was acquired illegitimately, it is to be destroyed as instructed by the lower courts. Also, any evidence gathered cannot be shared with the state attourny's office until this board has ruled on its legitimacy.

Fast-forward a bit and the AIVD, through various other means, suspects former AIVD member Paul H. and two others of leaking the dossiers in question, starts a court case against them, and calls those same 2 reporters as witnesses to ask them to reveal their sources. They both bluntly refuse, citing freedom of the press. The presiding judge then ordered the "hostage taking" of the two journalists for failing to reveal their sources.

The replacement senior editor of the newspaper De Telegraaf who employs the reporters was outraged. "We are deeply offended with this decision. Hostage-taking will not change the minds of these journalists or us. Only in life-threatening situations do we consider revealing our sources, and there clearly is no such situation here."

The journalists union NVJ is also deeply concerned. Since 1988 five reporters have been taken hostage by the courts. Four of them in the last 6 years alone, which is a worrisome trend.

Now, a HUGE uproar has erupted. Virtually all leaders of our various political parties reacted with adamant shock and outrage at these proceedings. Tomorrow the minister of justice in the Tweede Kamer, our version of the Senate, will be called to answer on this.

A case has been brought to the Wrakingskamer (literally: Vengeance room. A court that rules on judges.) which has dismissed allegations that the presiding judge was prejudiced, but will decide tomorrow if the imprisoned journalists are to be set free.

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