The International Federation of Journalists has called for an apology and explanation from European Union officials after a five-year investigation into a journalist was finally dropped yesterday.
In 2004, Hans-Martin Tillack, a Brussels-based investigative reporter for the German news magazine Stern, was accused by the EU’s anti-fraud office, Olaf, of bribing a civil servant for information two years earlier.
Tillack had published several reports on alleged financial irregularities involving European Parliament members’ expenses and the EU statistics agency Eurostat.
Police raided his home and office and 17 boxes of his papers were seized and examined, but no evidence was recovered to substantiate Olaf’s allegations.
At the time, International Federation of Journalists general secretary Aidan White called the case ‘a shocking denial of justice to journalists and their sources”.
In 2007, the European Court of Human Rights decided that Tillack’s freedom of expression had been violated.
The court ordered Belgium to award him â‚¬10,000 in moral damages and â‚¬30,000 in costs. His papers were returned to him.
Ernest Sagaga, human rights and information officer at the International Federation of Journalists, said the group was demanding an apology and an enquiry into the case.
He told Press Gazette: “After so many years of waiting, we’ve got the outcome we knew would come: that this was a baseless complaint and a waste of time and money.
“Someone has to take responsibility. Mr Tillack suffered in his professional and personal life. It was the harassment and persecution of an innocent journalist.”
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels yesterday, Tillack said he hoped the European Commission would take more care with journalists’ rights in future.
He said: ‘Perhaps now is the time for the commission to look at the way Olaf was handling this case.
“There are many questions that have to be still solved regarding the behaviour of OLAF and the European Commission.”
Tillack has always maintained that the investigations were aimed at silencing him and exposing his sources.