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Journalists Will Have Free Access to a Number of Databases, But They May be Required to be Registered as Operators of Personal Data

05 September 2019
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Journalists might be granted free access to the database of the State Register of Legal Entities and of Individual Entrepreneurs and to ‘Cadastru’ data on immovable assets. These proposals were made by the State Chancellery in a draft law. According to Andrei Spinu, Secretary General of the Government, media outlets will have to be registered as operators of personal data in order to benefit from these facilities.

The announcement was made by Andrei Spinu during a working session held on 5 September with journalists, representatives of National Center for Personal Data Protection (NCPDP) and Public Services Agency (PSA), following a report by Mold-street.com of certain issues regarding the access to the information contained in the Agency’s databases.
The draft developed by Chancellery provides for amendments to the Law on Press, Law on Cadastre of Immovable Assets, Law on Access to Information and Law on State Registration of Legal Entities and Individual Entrepreneurs.
Periodicals, press agencies and media service providers, i.e. legal entities, are to benefit from these facilities. The information on the state secret and on the health status does not fall under this law.

The document also states that in order to benefit from the free access to a database, media representatives should be registered as operators, and, when needed, be authorised by NCPDP in order to process personal data.
The Secretary General of the Government added that the document was developed as a matter of emergency and hoped that it would be submitted to the Parliament soon.
Previously, Mold-street.com reported that journalists had no longer access for several weeks to the Cis.webinfo database of legal entities, managed by the Chamber of State Registration. The Public Services Agency explained that the information service became unavailable since 10 July 2019.

During today’s meeting, PSA representatives announced that they are to extend journalists’ right to search the required information, from 6 September until 1 November. After that date, the authorities promised to identify solutions to facilitate journalists’ access to information.
Also today, the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIJM) and the Privacy Research Association (PRA) filed a public motion with PSA, claiming as unfounded and wrong the unilateral termination of service contracts and the unjustified denial by the latter of the access to public data contained in the State Register of Legal Entities.

CIJM and PRA mentioned that, as far as the law in force goes, the legal requirements on personal data protection are interpreted excessively and inappropriately when it comes to the limited access to the information contained in the State Register of Legal Entities as regards: the name of the legal entity, the name and surname of the founders, share of participation and other information that should be available to the public. ‘The law clearly stipulates that the above-mentioned information shall be public and accessible to anyone. Other legal reasons that would exclude the obligation to provide public access to this information were not identified’, the public motion stated.

Previously, investigation journalists have repeatedly pointed out to the need to eliminate or reduce the fees for accessing the databases of State Registers, since this caused the increase in the costs for producing investigations of public interest.
Last year, the Parliament voted in the first reading the new draft Law on Personal Data Protection, stipulating that the media shall not obliged to register as personal data operator.