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Netherlands: De Telegraaf takes government to court over alleged phone-taps of journalists

Posted by Liz Webber on July 9, 2009 at 4:52 PM
In a scenario more fitting for a totalitarian dictatorship than a modern Western democracy, the Netherlands’ largest newspaper De Telegraaf is suing the Dutch government over claims the AIVD secret service has been tapping the phones of four journalists for several months. The paper also alleges one reporter and an editor have been followed and observed.

The Netherlands Association of Journalists and the Society of Chief Editors have joined De Telegraaf in its suit, demonstrating the country’s press stands behind the newspaper.

The phone-taps began in January, De Telegraaf contends, when reporter Jolande van der Graaf was working on an article about AIVD’s failings in Iraq. The newspaper adds that the secret service kept Van der Graaf and foreign editor Hans Kuitert under close observation. The phone-taps extended to chief editor Sjuul Paradijs and deputy chief editor Joost de Haas.

After Van der Graaf’s article ran in March, she was interrogated by AIVD “on suspicion of giving away state secrets.” Her alleged source was arrested.

De Telegraaf asserts AIVD’s investigations reach far beyond knowledge about a specific article or source. The suit insists that the secret service destroy any information it has gathered within five days, and that the court levy a daily fine of 25,000 euros if AIVD refuses to do so. The court will begin hearing arguments on July 16.

Regardless of the subject of Van der Graaf’s article and where she got her information, there is no excuse for phone-tapping a journalist who was just trying to do her job. The scope of AIVD’s activities is also particularly worrisome. How can news organizations fulfill their role as government watchdogs if the government is continuously watching them? Hopefully the Dutch courts will acknowledge the grievous assault on journalists’ rights and prevent anything like this from happening again.

Source: NIS Bulletin, via European Journalism Centre

July 10, 2009 Posted by | News | , , , , | 2 Comments