Media NGOs are concerned about the registration with the Parliament, on 22 November this year, of a draft law developed by the National Center for Personal Data Protection (NCPDP), making journalists’ access to personal data much more difficult.
Thus, Article 12(3) of this legislative initiative states that journalists shall justify the public interest when requesting for journalistic purposes information containing personal data. When accessing this type of data, a journalist is required to observe a number of conditions that are not clearly, explicitly and coherently formulated. For instance, the draft law requires the observance for one’s right to personal data protection and, at the same time, of the condition that the data subject should have no interests to be protected, and of the condition that ‘subject guarantees are not affected, and physical and mental security are endangered’ – which is a doubling of the legal requirements for journalists. The draft law considers that all of the above prevails over the public interest. Moreover, this draft provides that journalists can process personal data only with the aim to publish information of public interest, thus potentially excluding journalistic documentation and other related work. In addition, an article in the law states that the freedom of information and expression may be restricted, inter alia, to protect the reputation or the rights of another person. These rules are unclear and ambiguous, and the wording leaves room for interpretation.
Although the information note states that the draft aimed at harmonizing the national law with international standards in the field, the General Regulation on Data Protection (GRDP) provides for the need to reconcile the right to the protection of personal data with the right to freedom of expression, and the possibility of the Member States to provide for exemptions for media representatives from certain provisions of this Regulation.
Note that this draft was subject neither to public debates nor to civil society analysis, and some of its provisions are totally contrary to the public interest of the citizens, and to the fundamental rights and professional interests of journalists. Or, documentation is one of the basic rights and obligations of any journalist.
Note that the Working Group on improvement of mass-media legislation, whose chair is Andrian Candu, has already presented a package to amend a whole set of legislative acts, which also amended the Law on Personal Data Protection. Amendments to this package of laws have been reviewed by media experts and journalists in consultation with civil society.
Since the Parliament has set up this Working Group, we believe that the MPs should prioritize the draft laws developed and discussed within the Group.
We ask the Speaker to promote the package of laws expressing the needs of journalists on the access to personal data of public interest and make sure that these amendments are reviewed and adopted as a matter of urgency, which would help improve media law. We also ask the NCPDP to take into account the amendments developed by the Parliamentary Group, so that the new legislative proposals ensure compliance with international standards and regulations related to press freedom.
Independent Journalism Center
Association of Independent Press
Association of Electronic Press
Center for Investigative Journalism
Press Freedom Committee
Association of Independent TV Journalists