New York, May 1, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the criminal charges brought against two Danish reporters accused of leaking state secrets by publishing intelligence reports that questioned the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Danish journalists say it is the first time that reporters have been indicted in their country for leaking state secrets, Agence France-Presse reported.
A state prosecutor announced April 27 that Michael Bjerre and Jesper Larsen of the conservative Copenhagen daily Berlingske Tidende had been charged in connection with a series of articles published between February and March of 2004 that said the Danish Intelligence Service had found no evidence that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The articles embarrassed Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen by showing that he had ignored the assessments of his own intelligence service to support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Bjerre and Larsen face up to two years in prison if convicted, AFP said.
“Journalists have a duty to publish information of such obvious public interest, and should not be criminally charged for leaks from government agencies,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We call on the state prosecutor to drop all charges against our colleagues Michael Bjerre and Jesper Larsen immediately.”
Berlingske Tidende editor-in-chief Niels Lunde said the newspaper had the right to publish the classified information, and he expects his reporters to be acquitted, the state broadcaster Danmarks Radio reported.
Frank Grevil, an intelligence officer who admitted leaking the reports to Bjerre and Jesper, spent four months in prison after being convicted in November 2004.