Belgium is breaching media freedom by requiring Brussels journalists to pay €50 to cover the next summit of European Union leaders. Joined by the European Commission, the journalists urged the Belgian government to reconsider the new law that makes people pay to be vetted by its security services.

The Belgian journalists association AGJPB said close to 1,000 journalists would be affected and called it a breach of media freedom.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, the measure was introduced on June 1, but it came to journalists’ attention on July 31 when the Council issued a routine invitation to accredit for coverage of the next quarterly summit in October.

For the first time, it said that those based in Belgium must pay the Belgian authorities for their compulsory security screening.

It highlighted the plight of freelancers who did not have employers to pick up the bill and also noted the anomaly that those coming from abroad would not pay as their security screening is handled by other national governments.

The European Journalists Federation called for an exemption.

Journalists accredited to the EU institutions have free access to the headquarters of the Council and Commission in Brussels but special security for summits means journalists and other visitors need additional six-monthly vetting to attend.