The International Press Association (API-IPA) is surprised and irritated about the fact that the Belgian authorities this week sent invoices, demanding a €50 payment, to several accredited foreign correspondents in Belgium. The fee supposedly covers (mandatory) security screening for obtaining accreditation to the October 2018 European summit held in Brussels.
API-IPA strongly opposes this unilateral decision that conflicts with previous commitments by the Belgian government to exempt foreign journalists from such a 'security fee'. The general secretariat of the Council of the EU is equally surprised about this decision.
API-IPA will address the Belgian government in close co-operation with the Belgian journalist organizations. In the meantime API-IPA calls on all correspondents who receive such an invoice NOT TO PAY!
API-IPA will keep you informed of the situation.
In February 2018, the Belgian Parliament passed an amendment to a 1998 law on the operation of the security services. The amendment gives security services the right to demand compensation from journalists for (mandatory) security screening carried out on media-accreditation requests for large international meetings in Brussels, such as EU summits. This amendment, with effect from 1 June 2018, was introduced without any warning or consultation with Belgian or international journalist organisations.
Together with the Belgian journalist organizations VVJ and AJP, API-IPA strongly protested in August against this discriminatory measure (see articles https://t.co/fwBJtiPd0Q and https://tinyurl.com/yc8q7qtl). We called on Belgium's federal government to drop the measure that constitutes an unnecessary obstacle to the work of journalists in reporting major international events in Belgium. Nowhere else in the democratic world do journalists have to pay for accreditation, necessary to do their daily work. For API-IPA and the Belgian associations this is a fundamental principle.
We were then informed by the Belgian authorities that the implementation of the measure was still under discussion and, for the time being, it would not be applied to (foreign) journalists who want to attend EU summits in Brussels. Sending invoices, as happened this week, is in conflict with that promise.