Dutch government admits spying on journalists

The Dutch government today admitted officials hacked into a media agency’s computers to find out what stories were being written about them.

The GPD news agency only discovered what was going on when one ministry press officer rang up to complain about a story that had not even been published.

Marcel van Lingen, editor-in-chief of the agency which serves more than a dozen newspapers in the Netherlands and Belgium, accused the government of “spying.”

The Social Affairs Ministry “used stolen information to influence (our) reporting,” he said.

The ministry confirmed in a statement some of its employees had accessed GPD’s internal site and apologised.

“It is not our policy and we reject it. The department will investigate the matter and take steps to prevent it happening again in the future,” said a spokesman.

It invited public prosecutors to investigate whether any criminal acts were committed. Other news outlets criticised the ministry’s action, and The Netherlands’ Union of Journalists’ chief Thomas Bruning called it a “kick in the shins for the independent role that journalism plays.”

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