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The Law on Personal Data Still an Obstacle for Journalists

16 May 2017
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The Law on Personal Data Protection restricts journalists’ access to information. This is the view of representatives of the media and civil society who participated in the public debate “Protection of Personal Data vs. Freedom of Expression and Information,” organized by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) on May 16.

According to the IJC Executive Director Nadine Gogu, it has been increasingly difficult for reporters to obtain information of public interest, such as the CVs of some employees of state institutions. As a rule, the Law on Personal Data Protection is invoked as a reason for refusal. This situation caused the need for a comparative analysis of legal aspects, so as to see how similar legislation is being implemented in other countries. The study titled “Protection of Personal Data vs. Freedom of Expression and Information” has been launched today at the same event. Its purpose was to analyze the provisions of the national and international legislation in the field, but also to come up with recommendations that will be used to formulate amendments to the current law, which will then be sent to the Parliament.

The author of the study, lawyer Tatiana Puiu, stated that journalists in Moldova currently have to write complicated requests for certain information, and the aforementioned law contains no exceptions for information provided for journalistic purposes. She mentioned, in this given context, that there is a European Union Regulation, which will come into force next year, establishing a set of rules regarding the provision of information, such as the one stating that “for journalistic purposes, legislation should provide for exceptions.”

The journalists present at the event have also stressed that they often have to send dozens of requests for information and that lately, nearly in all cases they have been getting answers where personal data are invoked, which hinders them from doing their work. “Every time we send a somewhat sensitive request, we have this 50/50 sensation: will we receive an answer or not?” said Nicolae Cuschevici, RISE Moldova reporter.

A new method of limiting access to information is the depersonalization of court judgments and the lack of possibility to search for case files by the first and last name of the person involved. Representatives of some NGOs have sent several proposals to amend the Rules of Courts, and according to Ilie Chirtoaca, legal adviser at the Legal Resources Center of Moldova, the most important thing is that “depersonalization should not be applied to legal entities and public authorities in cases involving a major public interest.”

Sergiu Bozianu, deputy head of the Records and Control Division of the Personal Data Protection Center, agreed with some of the opinions expressed, mentioning that the legislation in this regard requires changes and improvements. For this, a working group is needed, which should include journalists. According to Bozianu, it is very important to find the balance between the right to privacy and the right to access information and freedom of expression, because “at the moment, unfortunately, some legal provisions are out of date.”

The study is available in Romanian.

The study în English will shortly be available on www.media-azi.md.