(Vatican Radio) Press rights watchdogs and international media including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) network have condemned revelations that Germany's foreign intelligence service has been spying on foreign journalists. The scandal comes amid wider concerns over recently adopted legislation in Germany that allows direct espionage operations on foreign nationals and European Union institutions.
Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:
Germany's respected Der Spiegel news magazine reported Saturday that German spy agency BND monitored at least 50 telephone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses of journalists and editorial offices across the globe.
The surveillance, which began in 1999, allegedly targed media orgabizations such as the BBC, the British news agency Reuters and the American daily "The New York Times."
The BBC already voiced dismay that more than a dozen of its phone numbers in London and Afghanistan may have been monitored.
In a statement it urged "all governments to respect the operation of a free press" and said its journalists "should be able to operate freely and safely, with full protection for their sources".
Under legislation passed in October, the BND is permitted to direct espionage operations on foreign nationals as well as European Union institutions if they aim to gather in its words "information of significance for (Germany's) foreign policy and security."
However critics have condemned the law, which also provides further government oversight over the agency's intelligence activities.
Rights activists say the legisalion does now provide specific safeguards for journalists, who often work in difficult