Press freedom and media pluralism under threat in European Parliament vote on Data Protection proposal
Publishers of newspapers and magazines in Europe today sounded the alarm ahead of a vote in the European Parliament on the new Data Protection Regulation that could seriously undermine freedom of press reporting and the marketing of press titles. The European Parliament is finalising a package of compromise amendments on the Data Protection Regulation which will be voted on in the Civil Liberties Committee on 21st October. Compromises presented on key provisions would undermine the exemption for journalistic data processing that is essential to ensure that the press can continue to fulfill its democratic mission by investigating, reporting and publishing editorial content without any restrictions. It is therefore essential that the press has a directly binding exemption for journalistic data processing and that sources are protected. The Civil Liberties committee compromises surprisingly ignore amendments which support a strong, clear and directly binding exemption for journalistic data processing previously adopted in
the opinion committees with broad support of MEPs from several parties. Rather than maintaining the exemption from data protection restrictions and from control by data protection authorities, as set out in the current law – which the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation intended - it weakens it and therefore poses a severe threat to press and media freedom in many parts of Europe.
ENPA President Ivar Rusdal said: “Members of the European Parliament have, on many occasions, stated the importance of ensuring the highest standards of press freedom in Europe. Yet this current compromise on the Data Protection Regulation would have the opposite effect.” EMMA President David Hanger added: “We urge MEPs to avoid any restrictions on the freedom of journalistic reporting, ahead of their vote on this important piece of legislation.” A directly binding exemption for journalistic data procession is urgently needed as all restrictions set out in the new regulation, including the control of editorial content by Data Protection Authorities, will be directly applicable. The compromises instead leave the question of protection to national implementations and thereby open up the way for difficult discussions in
Member States and opportunities for governments to curtail press and media freedom. In several countries, it is even not clear whether the current level of protection of media freedom will be upheld. A clear reference to “journalistic purposes” therefore needs to be upheld as it is the only way to maintain proper protection of journalism (for example, storing of personal data in editorial archives, protection of personal data of sources, digital transmission of personal data by publishing articles and maintaining online archives). The compromises, however, threaten journalism by proposing to delete any reference to “journalistic purposes” and instead suggest that there should be exemptions “whenever this is necessary” “to reconcile” data protection with freedom of expression. It is particularly striking that the Civil Liberties Committee, which has advocated so strongly for press and media freedom and pluralism, could advocate such a position. A weak positioning of
European Parliament on editorial press and media freedom, as well as freedom of expression, is particularly dangerous going into negotiations with the Council, which itself foresees a similarly weak provision. So, a strong position from the European Parliament is very important. Furthermore, the future of press distribution is also seriously put at risk by the new compromise package. The compromises which will be put to a vote on Monday, are not as damaging as earlier proposals, but still restrict considerably the existing practices for contacting potential new readers and subscribers, notably via direct marketing. EMMA President David Hanger said: “The ‘compromises’ on the table still pose a threat to press subscriptions, as publishers will no longer be able to reach potential new subscribers through the various communication channels they currently do. This would have a direct impact on press
readership and the sustainability of many European titles. This is particularly worrying as subscriptions are an increasingly important part of press publishers’ businesses today, representing up to 95% of magazine sales in Finland, for example.”
ENPA President Ivar Rusdal added: “There are examples of newspapers with subscription circulation which depends up to 70% on marketing channels that have been used for decades but are under threat due to this compromise. Ironically, if this compromise is agreed, small and medium-sized European businesses - which represent most publishers - will be the losers, while the winners will be global giants with log-in models, through which they always obtain an ‘opt-in’.” Press publishers are urging MEPs to reconsider these compromises before the vote on 21st
October and to ensure that the reform of EU’s data protection legislation would protect European citizens’ data, while safeguarding freedom of the press.
Max Von Abendroth
Tel : +32(0)2 5360606
The European Magazine Media Association, is the unique and complete representation of Europe’s magazine media, which is today enjoyed by millions of consumers on various platforms, encompassing both paper and digital formats.www.magazinemedia.eu
The European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA) is the largest representative body of newspaper publishers across Europe. ENPA advocates for 14 national associations across 14 European countries, and is a principal interlocutor to the EU institutions and a key driver of media policy debates in the European Union.www.enpa.eu