Reporters Without Borders

Court rejects journalists’ appeal against allowing courts to examine their computers

Published on Wednesday 26 April 2006.
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The appeal court in Lisbon has given the go-ahead for the courts to examine the computers of two journalists on the daily newspaper 24 Horas, rejecting their appeal on the grounds of the right to protect their sources.

The court on 6 April 2006 dismissed the appeal by Eduardo Oliveira and Jorge Van Krieken, against analysis of their laptop computers, which were seized on 18 February. The two had obtained an injunction against the order, made by Judge Alfredo Costa.

Lawyer for the two journalists, Barros Figueiredo, said they would take an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Prosecutor-General Souto Mora said that the investigation into the case known as “Envelope Nine”- relating to a high-level child sex abuse scandal - the name taken from an article on the case written by the two journalists, was “almost complete”. All that remained was to analyse what information they had.

The newspaper’s editor, Pedro Tadeu, said that the two had lodged a second appeal condemning searches at the newspaper and at the home of Jorge Van Krieken, who is a freelance, and asserting that the confiscation of the computers was “illegal”.


29 March 2006

Judicial authorities urged to respect the right of journalists to protect sources

Reporters Without Borders voiced its support today for two journalists with the daily newspaper 24 Horas, Jorge Van Krieken and Joaquim Eduardo Oliveira, who are being prosecuted for publishing the list of owners of phone numbers of public figures who may have been investigated in connection with major, long-running paedophile scandal.

A criminal investigative court in Lisbon ordered the seizure of their computers on 28 February, accusing them of “illegal access to personal data” under article 44 of the criminal code because of a report in 24 Horas on 13 January claiming that a total of 80,000 phone calls by senior government officials had been recorded in the Casa Pia child abuse affair. Among the owners of phone numbers obtained from Portugal Telecom that were cited in the report was the president. Their computers were confiscated in a raid on the newspaper on 16 February.

“We offer our support to the reporters and editors of 24 Horas, who have been the victims of a violation of the principle of confidentiality of sources,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call on the judicial authorities to accept that journalists have this right. It should take precedence over the crime attributed to Van Krieken and Oliveira by the investigating judge, namely, publishing Portugal Telecom files, which is anyway very minor in comparison with the information they exposed in a serious matter of great public interest.”

The press freedom organisation added: “The Casa Pia affair is such a judicial mess that we see no justification for violating the confidentiality of these two journalists’ sources, and we invoke article 38-2 of Portugal’s constitutional, dealing with press freedom, as grounds for respecting this right.”

The Casa Pia scandal erupted in 2002 when the Portuguese press began reporting sexual abuse allegations by about 100 children and adolescents in the Casa Pia network of homes for orphans and children in need of care. In the course of nearly 30 years, several hundreds of these children were allegedly handed over to prominent people and sexually abused.

The first pedophilia trial began on 23 September 2003. A second trial opened on 25 November 2004. Leading figures from the world of television and politics have been convicted. The investigations are continuing.

Around 100 journalists recently signed a petition urging the government to support press freedom, which has suffered as a result of the affair. They are due to be received tomorrow by the parliamentary commission on rights and freedoms. The two 24 Horas journalists have appealed against the investigation judge’s decision authorising access to their sources. A court has agreed to hear their appeal. Meanwhile, they are due to appear before an assize court soon.

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