The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has warned the European Union that rules over data retention are a threat to press freedom and need to be urgently reviewed.
In a meeting in Brussels with the European Union Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, who is responsible for Home Affairs, a delegation of EFJ leaders said that the EU Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC raised serious concerns for civil liberties and press freedom, and potentially compromised protection of journalists' sources, a cardinal principle of journalism across Europe.
Commissioner Malmström responded to the warning with a commitment to take the potential impact on the media into account.
"I share the concern of the EFJ that press freedom and violation on protection of sources in Europe faces growing threats," she told the EFJ. "This is a broader development that we need to monitor closely. On the point raised on the Directive, I am glad to have heard the view of the EFJ."
"Data on who calls who is stored by telecommunications providers for business reasons and the Directive regulates law enforcements authorities access to this data. The EFJ pointed at the risk of abuse of this information and I fully share their view that this is unacceptable," said Malmström.
In the talks the EFJ expressed fears over the fact the Directive regulates a process for recording details of who is talking to who through electronic communication systems and also records the location of users of mobile phone calls and SMS messages.
"We believe the core principle of journalism to protect the confidentiality of sources should never be compromised by anti-terrorism and policing measures," said Arne König, the EFJ President, leading the delegation.
"The Directive as it is undermines this important principle which has been reaffirmed by the European Court of Human Rights as a cornerstone of press freedom," explained König. "Any EU legislation must respect citizen's fundamental rights to freedom of expression which is guaranteed by International law."
The delegation also handed over a political declaration made by Ministers of the Council of Europe in May 2009 in Reykjavik, Iceland which set out standard-setting texts on freedom of expression and information in the media in the fight against terrorism.
The Commission is currently consulting Member States on the implementation of the Directive for its evaluation processes. The delegation asked Commissioner Malmström to consider inserting an additional clause to the Directive which could provide legal protection for journalists over their duties to protect their sources during the review of the Directive.
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The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in more than 30 countries