European Media Freedom Act: 80 organisations urge the European Parliament to protect journalists from surveillance and spyware

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Source/Author: EFJ

Together with 79 journalists and press freedom, civil society, trade unions, digital rights, publishers and broadcasters organisations, the European Federation of Journalists has sent an open letter today to all members of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE), which is discussing the amendments to Article 4 on protection of sources and use of spyware against journalists of the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA).

While the European Media Freedom Act represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to safeguard the rights of journalists, the letter says, the recently-adopted Council’s general approach permits the deployment of “intrusive surveillance software” against media service providers on broad national security grounds. We have asked all members of the LIBE Committee to fight this.

 

Why?

National security has been used as a pretext for Member States to justify unlawful and intrusive measures against journalists. The PEGA report – the draft report following the investigation of alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware, which was adopted in May by the European Parliament, unequivocally demonstrated this.

The use of spyware must be prohibited as it gives access to all of an individual’s communications, photos, contacts and online behaviour data – without the knowledge of the victim. Source confidentiality, and our access to quality journalism which supports our democratic values, is in jeopardy.

 

What are we calling for?

  • Guarantee the absolute prohibition of the deployment of spyware and any other surveillance technologies under point (c) of Article 4.2.
  • Repressive measures under point (b) of Article 4.2:
    – strictly restrict the exception by inserting an exhaustive and limited list of serious crime allowing them (as defined in Article 2 (17) of the Commission’s proposal);
    – provide legal safeguards, such as the prior authorisation by an independent judge, access to effective legal remedies and a strict necessity and proportionality test.
  • A wider protection against access to journalistic encrypted content by including amendment  389 to the Parliament’s report.

The attached letter which now also includes signatures from all major media organisations and trade unions shows the broad consensus that the adopted text by the Council of Ministers under the Swedish presidency can by no means be accepted, if the Media Freedom Act sticks to its name and promises attached.