The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled in the favour of five media companies yesterday, recognising a journalistic right to protect anonymous sources, reports AFP.
The Financial Times, the Independent, the Guardian, the Times and Reuters news agency won an appeal against British courts who had ordered them to hand over documents relating to a Belgian brewing firm, Interbrew.
The documents in question would have required the media companies to identify the source of a leak to the press about a potential takeover bid for South African Breweries (SAB).
In 2001 a Financial Times journalist received a copy of the leaked document and published an article on the paper's website. The other four publications all published stories sourcing the same document in the days that followed.
Interbrew started proceedings at the High Court in London to force the companies to name the source of the leak, and in December 2001 the High Court found in Inbrew's favour.
Yesterday, however, the Strasbourg judges unanimously agreed that the order to hand over the documents was a violation of the right to freedom of expression, under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and overturned the decision and of the High Court. The judges also awarded the news organisations 160,000 € in costs.
The news comes just a month after a similar case concerning source protection with Irish Times editor, Geraldine Kennedy and a Times journalist, Colm Kenna, was won. The proceedings arose after a court order compelling Kennedy and Keena to answer questions relating to the source of an article the Mahon Tribunal was filed.
Of the decision Kennedy said: "It was a landmark judgment, enshrining the principle of journalistic privilege and the protection of sources into Irish law for the very first time."
Source: AFP via EU Business