Arnaud Zajtman, 44, is not exactly the kind of person you would mistake for a terrorist, weapons trader or drug dealer. The Belgian journalist has been reporting from Africa for almost 20 years, with a keen interest in Congo. For 10 years, he was stationed in Kinshasa as a correspondent, first for the BBC and then for the television broadcaster France 24. His stories focused on the forgotten children of Congo, on the battles fought by the rebels and on the country’s first free elections since 1965.
In that election year, in September 2006, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, took an interest in the journalist’s work. Agents included Zajtman’s two Congolese telephone numbers in the agency’s surveillance list as so-called “selectors.”
Zajtman knew nothing about it. German officials never informed him that his phone had been tapped, the journalist says. He was horrified when he was contacted by SPIEGEL regarding the alleged surveillance by the Germans. “It isn’t a good feeling to know that somebody was listening in when you’re dealing with highly sensitive sources.”
The Belgian journalist isn’t the only reporter who was spied on. According to documents seen by SPIEGEL, the BND conducted surveillance on at least 50 additional telephone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses belonging to journalists or newsrooms around the world in the years following 1999.