European Parliament Decision on Privacy Rights “Good for Media Freedom” Says EFJ

The European Parliament today took a decisive stand on legal jurisdiction and responsibility whenever privacy rights are violated, a move that the European Federation of Journalists welcomed as “good for citizens’ rights and good for press freedom.”

The Parliament amended a proposal from the European Commission on provisions regarding the law applicable to violations of privacy and rights relating to the personality. The changes mean that claims for infringement of privacy and rights relating to the personality will be governed by the law of the country to “which the publication or broadcasting service is principally directed.” If this is not obvious, the law of the country “in which editorial control is exercised” shall apply.

“This vote in the European Parliament is a step forward for more legal certainty for journalists carrying their activities within the European Union” said Pamela Moriniere, programme officer for the EFJ. “It is a decision that is good for the rights of citizens and good for media freedom.”

The Parliament had voted to endorse the report from Parliamentarian Diana Wallis on a proposal for a Regulation on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations (“Rome II”).

The EFJ says the new text provides a fair balance between European citizens’ privacy rights and the need to protect freedom of expression in the media, in conformity with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

However, the EFJ says that provisions calling for a European media code are unnecessary and inappropriate in such a Regulation. “Nevertheless, the text as it stands provides sufficient protection against people shopping around for a “friendly court” with insufficient legal protection for journalists’ rights,” said Moriniere.

The adopted text will now be submitted to the European Council as part of the co-decision procedure. And the EFJ reinforced calls for European leaders in the Council of Ministers to back the changes.

“We know that the European Council has a key role to play in reaching a common position on Rome II”, said Aidan White, EFJ General Secretary. “We therefore call on governments to listen to journalists’ concerns and maintain the wording adopted by the Parliament – it provides the solution to a problem that has been worrying journalists and media for many months.”