Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The constitution guarantees freedom of speech and of the press, which are generally respected by the government. The Belgian Chamber of Deputies voted unanimously in March 2005 to approve a law that protects journalists’ sources. The vote came after police raids in 2004 on the home and office of a Brussels-based reporter, Hans Martin Tillack, which shocked the community of international journalists. The new law protects reporters from home searches and seizures and gives them the right to silence if called as a witness. Journalists can only be forced to reveal sources to “prevent crimes that represent a serious attack on the physical integrity of one or several third parties.” In October 2006, Tillack brought his case before the European court of first instance, where he argued that the action against him by Belgian police violated his rights. Although the court recognized that his complaints of mistreatment were legitimate, in the end it ruled that the case was out of its jurisdiction.
Newspaper ownership concentration has increased since the 1960s as corporations have steadily been buying up papers. As a result, today a handful of corporations run most of the country’s newspapers. As for the broadcasting sector, unlike most other European nations, Belgium has two separate public broadcasting organizations (one operating in French and the other in Flemish), each with its own domestic and international broadcasting network. The government does not limit access to the internet, which was used by just under 50 percent of the population in 2006.