Reporters Without Borders hailed a Copenhagen court's decision today to acquit three Berlingske Tidende journalists who were being prosecuted for publishing the details of classified intelligence reports in 2004 about the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
“This is excellent news,” the press freedom organisation said. “Denmark is a model as regards press freedom and today's acquittal confirms its reputation. We welcome the court's decision to put the public interest ahead of the state's interest although we point out that the journalists should not have been prosecuted in the first place.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “The intelligence officer who leaked the reports to them, Frank Grevil, was tried and sentenced to four months in prison. The three journalists, Michael Bjerre, Jesper Larsen and Niels Lunde, are not subject to the same professional restrictions. We call on the government to amend the laws so as to protect the confidentiality of journalists' sources.”
An investigation was initiated on 26 April 2004 against Bjerre and Larsen, as the authors of the articles, on suspicion of “publishing information obtained illegally from a third party” under article 152-d of the criminal code. They and their editor, Lunde, were finally charged with the more serious offence of “harming state security,” which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
The start of their trial on 13 November sparked a wave of protests in Denmark and abroad.