Journalist released from jail after refusing to reveal source
The release of NOS reporter Robert Bas was ordered Friday afternoon by a courtroom panel in Rotterdam. Bas was ordered into custody by a magistrate there on Thursday in the case around the mistaken identity murder of mental health institution director Rob Zweekhorst in Berkel en Rodenrijs in 2014.
Earlier this year it was revealed that the authorities listened in on and recorded multiple conversations between Bas and a source that provided him with information on this case. These conversations were added to the criminal file. Based on the recorded conversations, the suspect's lawyer asked that Bas be questioned as a witness. The reporter appealed to his journalistic right of non-disclosure, refusing to give substantive answers to any questions.
According to NOS, he clearly stated that answering could cause a dangerous situation for both himself and his source. He was taken into custody in the hope that he will change his mind about testifying, the broadcaster wrote.
“A right of non-disclosure belongs to the journalist as a witness,“ the court said on Friday. "That right is not absolute," the court continued, pointing out that a reporter is still required to answer questions that will not compromise the source’s identity.
Shortly before the ruling, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) said they thought the jailing was unjustified in this case. “Looking at this specific criminal case, the Public Prosecution Service is of the opinion that the journalist does not have the right to source protection, because the identity of his source is already known,” the OM stated. It was also clear that the journalist would not be compelled to reveal any information, thus making the punishment ineffective, the OM continued.
A group of journalists gathered at the court in Rotterdam throughout Friday to protest against the reporter's confinement. "The custody is a means of forcing people to come to a statement", AD journalist Koen Voskuil said to NOS.
Voskuil spent 18 days in custody two decades ago for refusing to make a statement about a source within the police who gave him information about abuses in a major arms find in Amsterdam. "What a judge is actually asking is: you have to choose between the end of your career or you have to sit for a few days. Well, then just sit for a few days." He calls the detention of Bas "idiotic and absurd".