« Back to all News

EMFA: 80 organisations urge the European Parliament to protect journalists from surveillance and spyware

GFMD joins 79 journalists and press freedom, civil society, trade unions, digital rights, publishers, and broadcasters organisations in sending an open letter today to all members of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE), which is discussing the amendments to Article 4 on the protection of sources and use of spyware against journalists of the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA).data.

Author: GFMD Secretariat | 5. July 2023

See the Spanish version below

While the European Media Freedom Act represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to safeguard the rights of journalists, the letter says, the recently adopted Council’s general approach permits the deployment of “intrusive surveillance software” against media service providers on broad national security grounds. We have asked all members of the LIBE Committee to fight this.


National security has been used as a pretext for Member States to justify unlawful and intrusive measures against journalists. The PEGA report – the draft report following the investigation of alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware, which was adopted in May by the European Parliament, unequivocally demonstrated this.

The use of spyware must be prohibited as it gives access to all of an individual’s communications, photos, contacts, and online behaviour data – without the knowledge of the
victim. Source confidentiality, and our access to quality journalism which supports our democratic values, is in jeopardy.

What are we calling for?

  1. Guarantee the absolute prohibition of the deployment of spyware and any other surveillance technologies under point (c) of Article 4.2.
  2. Repressive measures under point (b) of Article 4.2:
    – strictly restrict the exception by inserting an exhaustive and limited list of serious crimes allowing them (as defined in Article 2 (17) of the Commission’s proposal);
    – provide legal safeguards, such as prior authorisation by an independent judge, access to effective legal remedies, and a strict necessity and proportionality test.
  3. Wider protection against access to journalistic encrypted content by including amendment  389 to the Parliament’s report.

The attached letter which now also includes signatures from all major media organisations and trade unions shows the broad consensus that the adopted text by the Council of Ministers under the Swedish presidency can by no means be accepted, if the Media Freedom Act sticks to its name and promises attached.

La Ley Europea de Libertad de Medios de Comunicación (EMFA), representa una oportunidad única en una generación para salvaguardar los derechos de los periodistas.

Sin embargo, el enfoque general adoptado recientemente por el Consejo permite el despliegue de “software de vigilancia intrusivo” contra proveedores de servicios de medios de comunicación basándose en amplios motivos de seguridad nacional.

LIBE debe luchar contra esto.

¿Qué estamos solicitando?

  1. Garantizar la prohibición absoluta del despliegue de programas espía y cualquier otra tecnología de vigilancia según el punto (c) del artículo 4.2.
  2. Respecto a las medidas represivas según el punto (b) del artículo 4.2:
    – limitar estrictamente la excepción mediante la inclusión de una lista exhaustiva y limitada de delitos graves que permitan dichas medidas (según la definición del artículo 2 (17) de la propuesta de la Comisión);
    – proporcionar garantías legales, como la autorización previa por parte de un juez independiente, el acceso a recursos legales efectivos y una prueba estricta de necesidad y proporcionalidad.
  3. Una protección más amplia contra el acceso a contenidos periodísticos encriptados mediante la inclusión de la enmienda 389 al informe del Parlamento.

La carta adjunta, que ahora también incluye las firmas de todas las principales organizaciones de medios y sindicatos, muestra el amplio consenso de que el texto adoptado por el Consejo de Ministros bajo la presidencia de Suecia de ninguna manera puede ser aceptado, si la Ley de Libertad de Prensa quiere mantener su nombre y las promesas adjuntas.

Digital surveillance is becoming a greater threat to press freedom, for that reason, in June 2023 GFMD and the Internet Society organised a workshop to approximate the use of encryption for journalists and media workers, as well as to give them tools to advocate for the use of encryption in their countries. The meeting report is accessible here, as well as an infographic with some useful resources. 

If you would like to take part in debates around the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) and other issues, consider joining the EU Media Advocacy Working Group. Please contact us at advocacy@gfmd.info if you are interested in joining the working group, or if you would like more information.


You are using an outdated browser which can not show modern web content.

We suggest you download Chrome or Firefox.