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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tension Between Journalists and European Commission

The European Commission fears that its confidential documents are increasingly at risk from spies. "We are not only pointing the finger at journalists. It could be the pretty trainee with the long legs and theblonde hair," Commission spokeswoman Valerie Rampi said yesterday, after a report in the German newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quoted from a confidential letter from the director of the Commission's security services to its director of human resources.

"Recent cases show that the threat of espionage is increasing day by day. A number of countries, information seekers, lobbyists, journalists, private agencies and other third parties are continuing to seek sensitive and classified information," said the Commission memo, which dates back to December.

"We need to remind the Commission that investigative journalism is in thepublic interest. Journalists have to look also for 'sensitive and classified' documents in order to inform the public and to placei nformation in a truthful context. It is a legitimate and essential part of a democracy to allow reporters to ask searching questions and get access to documents some politicians and officials would prefer for their own vested interests to keep out of sight," said Lorenzo Consoli, the President of API."

The Commission has a poor record of its treatment of investigative journalists. For instance, we are still waiting for an official response from them to take responsibility and apologise over their bogus complaint against German Stern reporter Hans-Martin Tillack, who was cleared last month of wrong-doing in his work to expose corruption in the European Union," said White.

The EFJ has called on the Commission to investigate how its officials came to make the false accusation of bribery against Tillack and to carry out an independent inquiry into the case that for years cast a shadow over relations between Brussels journalists and the Commission.

"Now the suggestion is that every journalist is a potential spy -- it's the worst kind of scaremongering," said White.

The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in 30 countries. API represents 500 journalists accredited to the EU Institutions.

For further information on the Tillack case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/99732

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