Journalist jailed for refusing to disclose source in gov’t eavesdropping case
NOS reporter Robert Bas was jailed by the court in Rotterdam because he refused to answer questions as a witness and reveal his source in an ongoing criminal case. He will be held in custody until at least Monday, NOS reports. The court hopes that this "legal means of coercion" will make the reporter change his mind and give testimony, the broadcaster writes.
This involves the case around the murder of mental health institution director Rob Zweekhorst in Berkel en Rodenrijs in 2014. This is known as a mistaken identity murder, because the authorities believe the gunman mistook him for a rival in the drug world.
Early this year, Bas had several telephone conversations with a source regarding this case. The judicial authorities eavesdropped on and recorded these conversations, adding them to the file. Neither Bas nor his source is a suspect in this case, according to the broadcaster. Bas was then summoned as a witness at the request of the suspect's lawyer. He refused to answer questions, telling the judge that answers could lead to a dangerous situation for both him and his source. That is when the court decided to jail him.
The chief editors of NOS are "extremely shocked" and called their journalist's jailing an "attack on the freedom of the press" on the broadcaster's site. "We are of course aware that this is a serious crime and a major criminal case", chief editor Marcel Gelauff said. "The only thing that is forgotten is that the safety of a journalist and his source is being seriously compromised."
Gelauff said that he is "appalled" by the decision to add the recorded conversations to the criminal file. Journalists have a legal right to non-disclosure, and this applies both to the identity of the source as well as all information the source gave the journalist, the laywer representing NOS and Bas argued.
Bas told NOS that the fact that he is in custody will not change his mind regarding his testimimony. The broadcaster fully supports this decision. "A statement from Bas will not be important, incriminating or revieving evidence" Gelauff said "The right to source protection is crucial for a journalist to be able to perform his duties as watchdog of democracy."