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Data protection laws to “kill-off” investigative journalism

October 22nd, 1993
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Statement: Investigative journalism could be killed off by new measures from the European
Commission should the new paper on data protection currently being discussed become a Directive.
Source: Broadcast Magazine,  22 October 1993

Response: The Commission has adopted a proposed Directive on Data Protection. This was amended (COM(92)422 final – SYN 287) in the light of suggestions made by the European Parliament. Article 9 (see below) of this Directive requires Member States to prescribe exemptions from the Directive’s provisions (or some of them) so as to reconcile the right to privacy with rules governing the freedom of expression. The precise extent of these exemptions is a matter for each Member State to judge.

The object of the proposal is to harmonise Member States’ data protection laws so as to ensure the free movement of data within the Internal Market. It is currently being discussed by the Council Working Group of Experts so that a common position can be achieved.

Current UK data protection law does not include any specific exemptions for the media, hence the vigorous debate over the necessity of having wide-ranging as opposed to minor exemptions for journalistic data.

Article 9.

Processing of personal data and freedom of expresssion:
“With a view to reconciling the right to privacy with the rules governing freedom of expression, Member States shall prescribe exemptions from this Directive in respect of the processing of peyrsonal data solely for journalistic purposes by the press, the audio-visual media and journalists.”

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