Journalist jailed for refusing to answer questions is freed from jail

Protesters hold up a banner. Photo: Molly Quell
Journalists protest about the decision to jail a reporter. Photo: Molly Quell

An NOS television reporter jailed on Thursday for refusing to answer questions as a witness in a ongoing court case was released from custody on Friday afternoon after an emergency hearing.

The court ruled that judges had been wrong to jail Robert Bas for refusing to give comprehensive answers to questions, based on his right as a journalist to protect both himself and his sources.

On Thursday judges ordered him to be detained in an effort to force him to answer questions about the murder of a health board chief who was shot dead near his home in Berkel en Rodenrijs in 2014.

Bas had been scheduled to remain in jail there until Monday. However, following a public outcry, the court scheduled an emergency session for Friday afternoon to look into the decision.

On Friday morning, hundreds of journalists turned up at the courthouse to protest about Bas’ detention. ‘It is an abuse of power to lock up journalists,’ NRC journalist Marcel Haenen who organised the protest, told the gathered crowd. Protestors had come from all over the country and nearly every news outlet was represented.

Court president Robine de Lange also spoke to the group. ‘I understand that this is a frustrating decision for the profession, but it is a law-based decision,’ she said.

However the European Court of Human Rights, the international court which rules on human rights cases involving European states, said in 2017 that even if the identity of a source is known, the state still cannot compel a journalist to testify.

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