Blog: Chris MercerA-B InBev 'loses' court battle to expose sources

Chris Mercer | 16 December 2009

The European Court of Human Rights has upheld journalists' right to protect confidential sources following a long-running dispute with Belgian brewer Interbrew, now a part of global beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Journalists at The Times, Guardian and Independent newspapers in the UK, as well as the Reuters news agency, were right not to reveal their sources when requested to by the UK's highest court, an EU judge said yesterday (15 December).

This case treks back to 2001 - positively a bygone era in the global beer market - when the publications were leaked documents from an unknown source that claimed Interbew was considering a takeover bid for South African Breweries - now SABMiller.

SAB’s shares rose by more than 22 times in the space of two days, while Interbew recruited private investigator group Kroll to uncover the source of the leak.

The Belgian brewer asked the publications to reveal their source and was ultimately backed up by the UK House of Lords, which also concluded that some of the information in the leaked document had been faked. At one stage, Interbew briefly threatened to seize the Guardian's assets.

While just-drinks stands alongside the industry on many issues, yesterday's ruling underlines the importance of the principle in journalism of protecting sources who wish to remain anonymous. 

Chris Mercer, deputy editor.


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