The news of recent years tells us how numerous governments have equipped themselves with one or more of these software, formally used in high-profile investigations, but in fact also exploited to violate the confidentiality of journalists, academics, activists and lawyers. Abuses that undermine the foundations of journalistic work, which is based on the confidentiality of communications between journalists and their sources.
The law under discussion, despite its name, risks legalizing these violations of professional secrecy. Without a guarantee of confidentiality of sources it is impossible to create the relationship of trust that is the basis of quality journalism and public service.
OBC Transeuropa, which together with dozens of other journalistic and civil society organizations works to improve this legal text and to protect quality journalism, invites all journalists to sign the letter by September 20th.
Link to sign
Text of the open letter:
Dear honorable members of the European Parliament,
Ahead of the upcoming vote of the draft report on the proposed European Media Freedom Act (EMFA), journalists in Europe are urging you to introduce an absolute ban on the surveillance of journalists through spyware in this text.
Some of us, and many of our colleagues across Europe and the world, have been unlawfully targeted in the past years, including by EU Member States. Some of whom have used intrusive surveillance weapons against us, threatening and potentially breaching confidential communications with our sources, invading our private lives and putting our safety at risk.
Spyware is today a major threat to press freedom. It gives access to a disproportionate and unrestricted amount of data: all the individual’s communications, photos, contacts and online behaviour data are collected - without the knowledge of the victim. The EU must urgently put an end to it.
For us journalists, digital security and data integrity are essential to guarantee our safety, and confidentiality and protection to our sources. We must be able to trust our devices and channels of communications in order to provide public interest and quality journalism.
Several EU governments have infected journalists’ phones with spyware while using national security as a pretext. Including the same grounds in future legislation would threaten our ability to hold governments to account, which is a cornerstone of EU democratic values. We need full and immediate protection.
Although a number of safeguards have been considerably added in the course of parliamentary work, too many loopholes remain. The European Parliament can still close them and offer us the shield we need from illegal surveillance.
We call on you today to prohibit the use of spyware against journalists in the EMFA.
Link to sign
Freedom of expression
Safety of journalists
This content is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.