Sunday

26th Jan 2020

German reporter comes out on top in EU bribery case

The Belgian judiciary on Tuesday (6 December) definitively closed a case brought by the EU anti-fraud office, OLAF, against Brussels-based German journalist Hans-Martin Tillack in 2004.

"The Belgians by themselves decided to close the case now at last," Mr Tillack told a press conference after the country's public prosecutor concluded that there was not enough evidence against the journalist.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Mr Tillack's run-in with OLAF started almost five years ago (Photo: EUobserver)

The saga started almost five years ago when OLAF suggested the reporter, working for German news magazine Stern, had bribed EU officials in order to gather documents for an article he published in 2002 on alleged irregularities in OLAF.

An action by Belgian police then followed that resulted in the journalist being detained by the police for several hours, his home and office being searched, and possessions including 16 boxes of documents, two archive boxes, two computers and four mobile phones being seized.

The hundreds of pages of seized documents were eventually returned to him last year.

Prior to this, the European court of human rights in 2007 judged that Mr Tillack's right to freedom of expression had been violated and asked Belgium to pay him €10,000 for "moral damages" as well as €30,000 in costs.

On Monday, Mr Tillack said that he hoped the affair would serve as a lesson to the European Commission when it comes to respecting journalists' rights and freedom of expression.

Siim Kallas, EU commissioner for administrative affairs, audit and anti-fraud, has previously stated that he would "draw conclusions from this case when it's over," Mr Tillack said.

"Perhaps now is the time for the commission to look at the way OLAF was handling this case ... There are many questions that have to be still solved regarding the behaviour of OLAF and the European Commission. and perhaps Mr Kallas should now put his actions where his words were," he added.

Aidan White, general secretary of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), which supported Mr Tillack throughout the case, argued the need for EU officials to apologise to the journalist.

"Those responsible within the EU and its investigation office, OLAF, should apologise publicly for their mistakes and for the damage they have caused. So far, there has been no hint of any regret from anyone within the EU," he said, adding that this was a sign of "arrogance."

For its part, the commission has always stressed OLAF is an independent body and denied any responsibility for the affair.

German journalist gets court backing in EU leak case

The European Court for Human Rights on Tuesday ruled that Belgian police violated the right to freedom of expression of a Brussels-based German journalist by raiding his home and office back in 2004.

Thousands apply for EU border guard posts

Around 7,500 applications were sent to Frontex to fill 700 new border guard posts. The guards will become official EU staff and wear a yet to be unveiled 'European Union' uniform.

Interview

Cloud of mistrust over Malta's new government

Malta's new government does not look likely to turn it into a normal, law-abiding EU state any time soon, the son of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has said.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan premier refuses to step down, despite ruling
  2. UK set to support new fossil fuel projects in Africa
  3. Leftists MEPs travel to visit jailed Catalan MEP
  4. Bulgaria may expel Russian diplomats over 'espionage'
  5. EU, China, others agree on WTO body to settle disputes
  6. EU Commission makes move against Poland on judges law
  7. Soros pledges $1bn for liberal universities
  8. Merkel: Germany unprepared for 2015 refugee crisis

European politicians caught with Russian 'fake likes'

Politicians and political parties in Europe have had bots generate fake 'likes', views, and comments to boost their online popularity, in what has been described as outright voter manipulation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. AI must have human oversight, MEPs recommend
  2. Second-hand cars flaw in EU Green Deal
  3. Why do EU arms end up in Libya despite UN ban?
  4. Brexit deal to be signed, as sides poised for tough talks
  5. Timmermans urges EU governments to tax carbon
  6. Vietnam sent champagne to MEPs ahead of trade vote
  7. China spy suspect had EU permission to work as lobbyist
  8. EU to unveil 5G 'toolbox' to tackle security threats

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us