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IFJ hails ruling on data retention law as victory for press freedom

(IFJ/IFEX) - 2 March 2010 - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) together with its German affiliates, the Deutscher Journalisten Verband and the Deutsche Journalistinnen - und Journalisten union in ver.di, have welcomed yesterday's ruling by Germany's Federal Constitutional Court which has struck down a law on data retention inspired by the European Union, saying that it violates the fundamental rights of citizens.

The highly controversial law, arising from a European Union directive on electronic data retention, was enacted into national legislation in 2008. It required telecom companies to store information about calls made through telephone, mobile and e-mail communication, as well as Internet usage, for up to two years. Now the Federal Constitutional Court data has riled that keeping such information without good reason violates the German Basic Law (GGS Art. 10). Now a backlog of data over this period must be deleted, and no further information of this kind put into storage.

"This judgement is a victory for journalists and citizens," said EFJ President Arne König. "It removes a major concern for journalists and their sources, who feared that e-mails and telephone calls would be available for reading by investigators in Germany. This is a good day for press freedom and for the protection of sources in Germany."

The EFJ believes that there has been widespread misuse of European data retention rules in Germany and other member states. "This judgement gives hope to journalists throughout Europe who face battles to protect their sources of information," said König. "The EFJ is now actively encouraging journalists' and civil society groups in other countries to challenge similar laws on the basis of protection of sources and press freedom as well as legal and data protection, proportionality and transparency."

The DJV and dju in ver.di together with over 40 organisations and associations had criticised the law in a common declaration and around 35,000 people opposed the law in Germany's largest class action suit, among them lawyers, doctors, journalists and politicians.

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