Dutch journalists and ‘publicists’ get the legal right to protect their sources

Dutch news site Nu.nl reports (Sep 22, in Dutch) that Dutch journalists and ‘publicists’ will get the legal right to source protection. Here’s a translation of that report (and below that, links to the documents, which are in Dutch):


Legal right to journalistic source protection

Journalists get a legal right to protect their sources. That privilege is not absolute, though.

Conditions can occur that make it necessary to reveal the source, for instance for reasons of national security or to prevent or end serious punishable offenses.

The judge ultimately determines whether the action of protecting sources was justified.

That is apparent from a bill that minister Ivo Opstelten (Security & Justice) sent to the parliament on Monday. The government recognizes the special role of journalists in public debate.

In practice it will mean that journalists do not have to answer questions about the identity of their source in a criminal case. Witnesses are normally obliged to answer. But the public interest of having the possibility to inform journalists without having to fear about prosecution, must be considered to be more important in general.



Source protection will not only apply to professional journalists, but also to publicists who write about current affairs.

In addition, stricter rules will apply to the use of coercive measures against journalists and publicists in a criminal case. The search of an office and confiscation of objects is only permitted after approval of and in the vicinity of a magistrate, and no longer by approval of a prosecutor.


The Council of State criticizes the proposal. The most important adviser of the governmental is of the opinion that only journalists have the right to protect their sources.

The Council favors a ‘restrictive’ phrasing of the right to source protection, considering the far-reaching consequences, in which ‘certain persons obtain a privileged position in comparison with other citizens whom are subject to the obligation of making witness statements’.

Also, it is unclear who can be classified as a ‘publicist’. “It is not a clearly demarcated profession.” Moreover, the government goes further than the European Court, according to the Council of State.



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