At the end of January, the Belgian Parliament adopted a change to a law prohibiting the taking of photographs or films of nuclear installations in Belgium without prior consent, under penalty of heavy fines and possibly even imprisonment. This "in the interests of public safety". Initially, this tightening of an existing law (dd. 23.03.2020) also applied to journalists (photographers, cameramen) who take such pictures, or the media that publish or distribute them. There were no exceptions listed. Without prior permission, only images that had been 'blurred' could be published.
The Belgian journalists' organisations (VVJ, AJP) immediately objected to this law with Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden, who had proposed the amendment and had rushed it through parliament. They felt that this restriction should not apply to professional journalists and their news media, in the exercise of news gathering.
That protest led to the minister issuing a collective authorisation for the making and/or distribution of visual material of nuclear facilities to all professional journalists who are affiliated to one of the Belgian journalistic trade organisations. At the suggestion of VVJ/AJP we also requested this exception for members of API-IPA, and that was granted by the minister.
This means that API members who take images of nuclear facilities, as well as the media that publish these images, no longer need to obtain prior permission to take and/or distribute these images, or have to blur them. Non-API members will still need to apply for such permission.
The authorisation is subject to a number of restrictive conditions: for example, no detailed images may be taken of nuclear sites, nor shots of safety installations or surveillance, nor continuous images for an extended period. Special authorisation is still required for aerial photography of nuclear installations. In the event of non-compliance, the maker or distributor of the images shall be personally liable.
At the request of the authorities (i.e. the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control), API will only confirm whether a photographer/cameraman is a member of our organisation. Further details will not be provided.
The authorisation is valid for a period of five years.
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