Four media groups implicated in the Interbrew leak case earlier this year are to ask the European Court of Human Rights to protect the identity of their sources following rulings by UK judges ordering disclosure of leaked documents.

A High Court judge and three Court of Appeal judges have ruled that the documents, which were sent to the groups from a hitherto anonymous source, should be surrendered to Interbrew.

The case has carried on even though in July Interbrew dropped its case against the media groups. Since then, the case has been taken over by the UK financial watchdog, the Financial Service Authority (FSA).

In a joint submission to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, The Independent, The Guardian, the Financial Times, The Times and Reuters, said the judgment of the UK courts represented a breach of the right to freedom of expression. They also question the judges' conclusion that disclosure was "necessary in a democratic society."

The documents in question, which it is now believed had been doctored, suggested that a takeover bid by Interbrew for South African Breweries was imminent. The FSA now contends that the newspapers had been used in a scam to manipulate the share price of both companies.