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11 Mar 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 21 Jan 2019 Belgium

Multiple Complaints Filed Against Investigative Journalists David Leloup and Tom Cochez

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Several complaints have been filed against Belgian investigative journalists David Leloup and Tom Cochez by companies or individuals belonging to the political and financial community of the city of Liège. Following the publication of a series of articles between April 2017 and December 2018, in the weekly "Le Vif-L'Express", regarding a corruption case involving Socialist MP Alain Mathot and the Nethys company’s business, led by Stéphane Moreau, former socialist mayor of the city of Ans, David Leloup has been the target of five complaints and two threats of complaints, within little less than a year, between 5 January and 28 December 2018. The journalist must answer criminal charges following a complaint filed by the Semeb company. Four complaints were also filed with the Journalistic Ethics Board (CDJ) by Alain Mathot and by the Nethys SA and Ogeo Fund companies. Brussels businessman Dominique Janne and Ogeo Fund threatened the journalist with two additional judicial complaints.
The journalist Tom Cochez is also targeted by two ethical complaints and faces two threats of judicial complaint, including one targeting the Flemish online investigative media Apache, which collaborates with Le Vif-L'Express on the above-mentioned investigation cases. The Belgian Association of Professional Journalists (AJP) is worried about this multiplication of complaints targeting those journalists. The AJP provided David Leloup with a lawyer, in order to respond to the judicial harassment he is obviously subjected to.
Updates
New 11 Mar 2019
On 8 March 2019, the Belgian association for the support of journalists and whistleblowers Xpress revealed that Nethys' and Stéphane Moreau's lawyer served a formal notice to the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) to remove all references to its clients in the alert published on the Council of Europe Platform to strengthen the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists. The EFJ did not answer the demand.
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07 Mar 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 07 Mar 2019 Belgium

The Daily Newspaper 'L'Avenir" Locked Out

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Following the announcement on Monday 4 March 2019 of a two-day strike to protest the dismissal of three journalists from the regional daily "L'Avenir", the newspaper's management locked out the company. The management decided on Monday evening to deny to the newspaper's journalists access to their work tools: it became impossible for the editorial staff to post articles on the newspaper's official accounts on social networks and on the "L'Avenir" website. On 6 March, even though the editorial staff had voted to resume work, in the morning, the management maintained the ban on access to the newspaper's website and social networks until late in the evening. An agreement was reached shortly before midnight. Journalists' representative organisations denounced the "muzzling" of the editorial staff of "L'Avenir" and the threats to media pluralism and independence. They likened the two-day lockout by the newspaper's management to "plain and simple censorship", undermining the right of "L'Avenir"’s readers to access information.
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30 Nov 2018 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 30 Nov 2018 Belgium

Violent Arrest of French Journalist Covering a 'Yellow Vests' Demonstration

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Live coverage by the French digital channel Brut of the "Yellow Vests" demonstration held in Brussels on 30 November 2018 was interrupted following the violent arrest of journalist Rémy Buisine by the Belgian police. While filming clashes between police officers and "Yellow Vests" behind the police, a police officer violently detained the journalist, who had spontaneously presented his official press card. The journalist was thrown to the ground. The police tied his hands together. Rémy Buisine was released after half an hour without explanation. He was then only able to retrieve his press card and his video equipment. The Belgian Association of Professional Journalists (AJP) immediately asked for explanations from Prime Minister Charles Michel and Interior Minister Jan Jambon.
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29 Nov 2018 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 29 Nov 2018 Belgium

Arbitrary Arrest of a Journalist in Charleroi

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Belgian journalist Patrick Lefèbvre, a contributor to the daily "La Dernière Heure", was arbitrarily arrested in Charleroi on the night of 24 to 25 November 2018. While filming clashes following a demonstration, police arrested him on a public road. Patrick Lefèbvre was wearing an orange jacket bearing the mention "Press". His press card was clearly visible. "While I was filming the police assault, the reporter testified, they asked me to stand in front of them, on the side of the demonstrators. A policeman grabbed me from behind and claimed that I was a fake journalist in order to make a judicial arrest. I was locked in a cell without my shoes and without my belt until 7 am. I was then released without explanation and without even a hearing. Only one senior officer apologized'. On 29 November, the Belgian Association of Professional Journalists (AJP) sent a letter of protest to Prime Minister Charles Michel and Interior Minister Jan Jambon.
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20 Jun 2018 Lvl. 1
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 20 Jun 2018 Belgium

Journalists Himad Messoudi and Julien Vlassenbroek Detained and their Equipment Confiscated

Source of threatState
CategoryDetention and imprisonment of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ EBU
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ EBU
On 20 June 2018, the police ordered the journalists Himad Messoudi and Julien Vlassenbroek working for the French-speaking Belgian radio and television (RTBF) and their team (three technicians, all of them staff of RTBF) to stop filming a police operation targeting protesters opposed to the detention centre for persons illegally resident in Belgium. According to the journalist’s live testimony on the public channel’s television news, which was transmitted from inside a van thanks to a smartwatch, they were deprived of their liberty and their equipment was confiscated by the police while they were exercising their duties as journalists. Later on 20 June, Mr. Messoudi announced on his twitter account that the crew was released by the police. RTBF assessed their detention as an “unjustified restriction of the right to report”.
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15 Nov 2017 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 27 Oct 2015 Belgium

Journalists Arrested and Forced to Delete Material During Anti-TTIP Event

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Partner EFJ/IFJ
On 15 October 2015, during a protest in Brussels against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), at least three freelance journalists were arrested by the Belgian police, who subsequently destroyed press material. Thomas Michel and Maxime Lehoux, two journalists covering the event for the Internet television channel Zin TV, as well as a professional Italian freelance journalist with an official press card, were forced to delete their material featuring police violence against protesters. The police invoked alert level 3 (terrorism) to justify the deletion of all material. The journalists say, however, that they clearly identified themselves as journalists to the police and stated that they were only filming public images and not concentrating on the security measures. The Belgian League of Human Rights specifies that the Italian journalist was deprived of freedom for six hours for filming, in a public space, the police intervention during this anti-TTIP protest.
Updates
15 Nov 2017
On 14 November 2017, following the complaint lodged by Thomas Michel and Maxime Lehoux (ZIN TV) against two Dutch-speaking federal police officers, the Chamber of the French-speaking Council at the Brussels Court of First Instance referred the case to the Chamber of the Dutch-speaking Council.
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22 Sep 2018 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 28 Nov 2016 Belgium

Belgium: Journalist Interrogated and Home Raided by Police

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner Index AEJ EFJ/IFJ RSF
No state reply yet
Partner Index AEJ EFJ/IFJ RSF
On 21 November 2016, the Belgian federal police raided the home of journalist Bart Aerts who works for the programme "Terzake" on Canvas TV channel and took him in for questioning. According to Flandre Info, Aerts' phone was seized by the police, his computer was searched and he was taken in for questioning in Bruges. During the Terzake episode of 17 November 2016, Aerts examined recordings that had been extracted through wiretapping carried out by the police, which had been used in a murder investigation. These recordings revealed that the family of the victim Stijn Saelens had tried to contact the Public Prosecutor's department and judges in Bruges. In a letter to the Bruges magistrate, the public media group VRT, of which Canvas TV is a part, denounced the methods of the police and justice system. They demanded that the police return the phone to the journalist. Pol Deltour, national secretary of the Flemish journalists' association was quoted by Flandre Info saying the house raid "was a clear violation of the 2015 law on journalistic sources protection."
Updates
22 Sep 2017
On 21 September 2017, the Indictment Chamber at the Ghent Court of Appeal rejected Bart Aerts' request for access to the criminal file and confirmed the search of his home, the interrogation and the temporary confiscation of his mobile phone on the grounds that it constitutes an object with which a crime could have been committed; that its confiscation therefore falls under the current investigation; that there is no indication that the purpose of the search or confiscation was to reveal the journalist's sources.
Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer
29 Nov 2016
Factsheet on other acts having chilling effects on the media freedom of journalists
29 Nov 2016
Ernst and others v. Belgium, no. 33400/96, Judgment 15.7.2003 : Massive searches of journalists’ places of work, homes and, in some instances, cars in order to identify magistrates having leaked information about pending criminal cases
29 Nov 2016
Nagla v. Latvia - 73469/10 : ECHR Judgment 16.7.2013 : Urgent search at journalist’s home involving the seizure of data storage devices containing her sources of information
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27 Feb 2017 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 27 Feb 2017 Belgium

The Law on the Protection of Journalistic Sources Ignored

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ Index
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ Index
The Brussels Prosecutor's office ordered the journalist Pauline Deglume, from the the daily newspaper "La Dernière Heure”, to be heard by the police on 23 February 2017 in Brussels. The journalist was interrogated as a "suspect" after a complaint was lodged by the Brussels Inter-municipal Transport Company (STIB) with a view to to identifying the source of her information concerning an article she had published on 17 January 2015 about the monitoring of Brussels subway stations. The journalist and the professional organisations of journalists have denounced this intimidation and violation of the Belgian law of 7 April 2005 on the protection of journalistic sources. The law stipulates that only an investigating judge (and neither the public prosecutor's office nor the police) may interrogate a journalist about his/her sources and only in a situation of serious threat to the physical integrity of a person and when the requested information cannot be obtained in any other way.
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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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