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IFJ calls on European Union to strike better balance between freedom of expression and privacy rights

(IFJ/IFEX) - 7 July 2010 - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists, calls on European legislators today to strengthen journalists' rights by improving the balance between the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and an individual's right to privacy when reviewing European data protection legislation.

The call came after a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which denied an applicant's right of access to a public document regarding anti-competitive behaviour on personal privacy grounds that is protected under current data protection regulation.

"The judgement of the Court on 30 June exposes the current imbalance in reconciling two fundamental rights: freedom of information and protection of personal privacy," said Arne König, EFJ President.

"The legitimate concern to protect privacy and personal data by legislation should not infringe the fundamental right to freedom of expression and freedom of information as laid down in Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR)."

"European legislators should create a legal framework in which journalists are free to fulfil their task of investigating and informing the public in a transparent, ethical and accountable editorial environment," König stressed.

The European Commission is currently reviewing the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC), a European legislative instrument that regulates the processing of personal data. In the response to the Commission's consultation, the EFJ urges the Commission to pay special attention to the incompatibility of the Directive with Article 10 of the ECHR and to strictly follow the principles of the Council of Europe stated on 29 May 2009 in the Reykjavik Declaration to respect freedom of expression and freedom of information.

The EFJ also warned the Commission to take into account the principle of protecting the confidentiality of journalists' sources of information when reviewing the legislation. "Journalists fear that data protection legislation could increasingly be used as a means to prevent investigative journalism," said the EFJ.

"European policy-makers must uphold and clarify the existing exemption that allows journalists and media organisations to process personal data for journalistic purpose," the EFJ stressed.

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