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Netherlands government proposing media shield law

[JURIST] The Dutch government on Tuesday announced [press release, in Dutch] that it has proposed legislation [text, PDF, in Dutch] that would allow journalists to keep their sources secret from the government. The proposal comes two years after a Dutch trial judge detained two newspaper reporters [RSF press release] for three days after they refused to reveal their sources when called as witnesses in the trial of a former Dutch intelligence officer who was accused of leaking information about a drug trafficker. The proposed law, which would extend the right to bloggers as well as traditional reporters, is expected to be enacted sometime next year. AP has more.

Last November, the European Court of Human Rights [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that journalists' right to protect confidential sources "could not be considered a mere privilege to be granted or taken away" by European states. Earlier this year newspapers in the US pressed for the Senate's passage [JURIST report] of a proposed shield law entitled the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007 [materials], but the bill was eventually tabled without a vote. The US House of Representatives passed a similar bill [JURIST report] in October 2007. The uncertain status of reporters' right to protect sources has been highlighted in the ongoing case of former USA Today reporter Toni Locy [JURIST news archive], who has refused to disclose government sources who provided information about former US Army germ-warfare researcher Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, initially identified as a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax attacks [GWU backgrounder].

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