Monday

18th Jan 2021

EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press

  • Bucharest. The European Commission wants Romanian authorities to give the media more leeway when it comes to data protection (Photo: steve_lynx)

The European Commission has warned Romania not to abuse the EU's new data protection regulation, given recent threats by national authorities in Bucharest to impose a €20m fine on a Romanian media outlet.

Chief European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels on Monday (12 November) that exemptions on privacy and data protection must be created for the media working in Romania.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"It is of upmost importance that Romanian authorities implement that obligation in national law, to provide exemptions and derogations to protect journalist sources, in particular, from the powers of the data protection authority," he said.

The comments follow demands by Romania's data protection authority to force journalists working at the Rise Project, an award-winning investigation portal, to reveal their sources in a probe of a top politician accused of corruption.

Ancuta Gianina Opre, Romania's data protection authority, issued the threat in a letter last week - telling the reporters they have ten days to respond to nearly a dozen questions.

Although Ancuta Gianina Opre was appointed to the position by the political party that is under the Rise Project probe, the letter claims she is acting under the powers given to her by the new EU data protection regulation (GDPR).

But article 85 of the GDPR is supposed to give journalists wide leeway.

However, the vague wording of the article does not say how EU states should do it - leaving open a loophole for politicians and people in power to exploit.

Opre's office has yet to respond to EUobserver questions on how it applies article 85, and how it strikes a balance between the freedom of expression and data protection.

For its part, the commission says it is now analysing Romania's exemptions and derogations for journalists, to see if they conform to the regulation.

Andrea Jelinek is the chair of the European Data Protection Board [EDPB], charged with overseeing the compliance of the EU's data protection regulation and rules.

Last month, she told this website that politicians using data protection to stop reporters probing how public money is spent is a poor excuse.

"To say or to pretend it is a data protection issue and so you can't investigative, it is just an easy way to keep questions away for those who don't want to answer," she said, speaking in a personal capacity.

Romania 'using EU data protection law to silence journalists'

An award-winning journalism outlet in Romania is being threatened with fines by the country's data protection authorities - for having disclosed connections, on Facebook, of powerful politicians and a firm embroiled in scandal.

Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources

Romania's data protection authority is headed by Ancuta Gianina Opre, who in 2017 was charged with abuse of office in her previous job. Last week, she threatened a €20m fine against journalists in their effort to uncover corruption.

Romanian PM wades into '€20m fine for journalists' row

Prime minister Viorica Dancila told EUobserver that Romania's constitution guarantees freedom of expression for journalists - but insisted EU data protection rules must be respected. Her comments follow threats to impose a €20m fine on a group of investigative reporters.

Interview

2013: Snowden was 'wake-up call' for GDPR

The contentious negotiations on the EU's data protection rules (GDPR), very much influenced by intense lobbying from the US, radically changed after whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that US intelligence services were collecting worldwide user-data.

News in Brief

  1. Navalny arrest prompts calls for EU sanctions
  2. Portugal's EU celebration caused corona risk
  3. Women's rights protesters 'evil', Poland's Kaczyński says
  4. Eurostar says government help needed for survival
  5. German party elects Armin Laschet to continue Merkel's line
  6. Vaccine apartheid on show in EU neighbourhood
  7. Hacked EU files show pressure for quick vaccine approval
  8. EU court and Irish dog make history

Opinion

Rule-of-law deal: major step for Europe of values

At the very moment when an incumbent president across the Atlantic was carrying out staggering attacks on the foundations of democracy, the European Parliament obtained a historic agreement to protect the rule of law in Europe.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. How one man and his dog made a mark on EU history
  2. Frontex spent €94,000 on a dinner in Warsaw
  3. EU's AI military strategy poses 'threat to Europeans'
  4. EU leaders seek to speed up vaccinations This WEEK
  5. EU name change masks new restrictions in development sector
  6. Frontex and Europol pledge greater access to documents
  7. Dutch government resigns two months before election
  8. The battle for Germany's ruling party that will change Europe

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us