European journalists won greater protection for their sources in a ruling Tuesday by the European Court of Human Rights that faulted Dutch law enforcement for arresting an editor and ordering his magazine to surrender images of an illegal street race.
In an unanimous ruling, the Strasbourg-based court's 17 judges said Dutch public prosecutors should have sought an independent opinion on whether their criminal investigation overrode the public's interest in a free press.
Press advocates welcomed the ruling as a landmark that will cement European journalists' right to protect their sources.
Autoweek magazine, a publication of Sanoma Uitgevers BV, had promised anonymity for participants in the outlawed 2002 race in exchange for being allowed to send a reporter and photographer.
Police believed one of the cars that participated in the race had been used as a getaway car in burglaries of cash machines by a gang that used a shovel loader to break into the ATMs, including one raid in which a bystander was threatened with a gun.