In the wake of 9/11, European countries have been busy enacting controversial mandatory data retention laws. Now draft legislation by the German government would make it easier to monitor virtually all communications by journalists -- effectively ending source confidentiality and press freedom.
It may soon no longer be a good idea to tell a journalist something confidential over the phone in Germany. It would also perhaps be prudent to avoid sending e-mails, faxes or text messages. In the future, sources might be better off furtively intercepting reporters on their way home, writing letters, or sending smoke signals.
As of Jan. 1, 2008, this kind of cautious behavior may be advisable -- that is if the German parliament, the Bundestag, approves a bill next week that would effectively remove all protection of journalists' sources when it comes to telecom and Internet communications.
If this happens, all newspapers and magazines will perhaps also be well advised to print warnings like the labels found on pharmaceutical and cigarette packaging: "Caution -- an effective protection of sources can no longer be guaranteed."
Friday, November 2, 2007