Journalists can be forced to give up source suspected of serious crime

A new regulation describing how criminal procedures against journalists should be handled will take effect on June 1. From then on, journalists can only be forced to give up their source if there is a suspicion of a serious crime, and only if the public prosecutor involved got permission to use coercion on the journalist, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) said in a statement.

In this case, a serious offense is a crime that is punishable by at least 12 years in prison. The "proportionality and subsidiarity" of using coercion to get a journalist to reveal their source will always be tested, the OM said. Before a prosecutor can take this step, they must get permission from the chief public prosecutor and inform the Board of Attorneys General.

Two new points of attention were also added to the regulation. The first involves journalists who end up in a criminal investigation as a "by product" - for example, if the investigators tapped a suspect's phone and listened in on a conversation with a journalist. "The journalist shall be informed when the interest of the investigation permits it and insofar as it is clear that it is a journalist," the OM said.

The second point involves journalists working abroad. If the police or OM file a request with a foreign authority involving a journalist, the procedures used must correspond to procedures that apply to journalists in the Netherlands as much as possible.