Danish court rules in favor of journalist

  • 2002-09-19

A Copenhagen appeals court has overturned a lower court's ruling that gave police the right to bug a Danish newspaper journalist in order to get to his sources within the Islamic community.

The appeals court ruled Sept. 13 that "the police's need for information from the journalist was not strong enough" to justify a suspension of the law giving the media the right to protect its sources.

A Copenhagen district court had earlier granted police permission to bug conversations between journalist Stig Matthiesen and his news desk at Denmark's largest newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, and agreed to suspend an article of the law giving the media the right to protect its sources.

Had the appeals court upheld the decision and Matthiesen continued to refuse to reveal his sources, he could have faced a fine and up to six months in prison.

Carsten Just, editor in chief of Jyllands-Posten, welcomed the appeals court's ruling.

"We are very pleased by this verdict, in the name of freedom of the press and our incriminated reporter, and we hope that police learned a good lesson so that such a scandalous case as this is not repeated," he told AFP.

Police secretly bugged Matthiesen after his Aug. 11 article about tensions between Jewish and Palestinian groups in Denmark, where he said rumors were circulating in fundamentalist Islamic circles about a 250,000 kroner (33,600 euro) reward for the murder of Jewish public figures in Denmark.

The newspaper had provided information to the police, including a list of names of Jews to be murdered, but police were not satisfied with the information and had insisted on the names of Matthiesen's sources.

The bugging was the first case to arise since Danish police were granted more extensive surveillance powers under anti-terrorist legislation adopted following last year's Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.