Data Protection Law Raises Concerns over Press Freedom

EFJ, the European Federation of Journalists, ENPA, the European Newspaper Publishers' Association, EMMA, the European Magazine Media Association, and EPC, the European Publishers' Council, have launched a joint petition calling on EU policy-makers to defend their right to inform the public in the EU data protection law reform.

Journalists and press publishers play a crucial role in our democratic society informing citizens about important issues of public interest. A key part of this work is investigative journalism, which has resulted in unearthing countless revelations of concern to our society and which remains a vital part of the process of holding those in power to account.

Professional secrecy is a cardinal principle of journalism and requires that journalists protect the anonymity of the source of information including sensitive data obtained in confidence. Journalists and press publishers are guided by this professional ethics to take great risks as well as responsibilities to publish information that is in the public interest.

The group has warned that  press and journalistic freedom will be under threat if journalists and press publishers are being punished by using certain data in their investigative reporting. They further warned that (self) censorship will become a common practice if the EU adopts either proposals awaiting vote in the European Parliament or those currently under discussion in the Council of Ministers, to amend a draft European General Data Protection Regulation (Article 80).

They explained that these proposals would restrict the possibility for journalists and publishers to serve the public interest and fulfill their democratic mission as regards being able to investigate, report, write and publish editorial content without any obstacle, and to guarantee that sources are adequately protected.

Concerns of journalists and publishers have been adequately reflected in the amendments adopted by the Parliament Committees for Legal Affairs (JURI opinion) and for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE opinion) as part of the opinions on the draft Regulation, and tabled in the Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. However, the final text passed by the European Parliament's Civil Liberties ("LIBE") Committee has removed the journalistic exemption to process data.

The group has called on the support of journalists, publishers and all EU citizens to sign the petition letter asking members of the European Parliament, Council of Ministers and the European Commission to guarantee the freedom of expression and information under Article 80 of the draft General Data Protection Regulation. 
How is Article 80 of EU data protection law affecting rights?

Without the explicit exemption for journalists and publishers to process data there is a risk that: 

 Journalists will not be able to process certain data for use in their reports or investigations, even though the data are integral to the report and concern an issue of public interest. (Watch the video messge from EFJ General Secretary, Ricardo Gutierrez)

• Publishers will not be able to publish articles including such data, even though it is in the public interest to do so, and will face huge fines for a breach of the rules.

• An EU Citizen's right to be informed about important issues of public interest will be undermined, as will democracy in Europe. For further details of the specific problems relating to the approaches to Article 80 of the draft Data Protection Regulation, see the joint statement of EFJ, EMMA, ENPA and EPC here.

This petition is initiated by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European Newspaper Publishers' Association (ENPA), the European Magazine Media Association (EMMA) & the European Publishers' Council (EPC).