The EU Commission has spoken out against a new rule brought in by the Belgian government which would charge journalists a fee of €50 for the right to attend EU summits. The fee – ostensibly for a six-monthly security screening — would apply to Belgian nationals as well as other journalists resident here.
The measure has been in place since 1 June, and while journalists themselves do not have to pay, a bill will be sent to their employer. Quite how that applies to the many freelance journalists who make up the press corps is not clear.
The security screening is obligatory for all press attending a summit, but the fact that reporters coming to town only for the summit itself will not have to pay the fee is a bone of contention as a clear case of discrimination. For example, a Belgian reporter who has lived and worked here all of her life will incur fees of €100 a year; a Russian reporter in town for only a few days pays nothing.
“The Commission is not happy with the Belgian law which came into force on 1 June, and also has no plans to apply the charge,” said Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva. “Journalists have to be able to do their jobs in the best possible circumstances.”
And she advised each journalist affected to file a complaint with the Commission, which would then pass them on to the Council of Ministers, which would in turn take the matter up with the Belgian government.
The Belgian journalists’ union has also registered a complaint, and the federal home affairs ministry promised the measure would be evaluated and, if necessary, amended.