In the guise of national security, the European Union is about to ratify new regulations allowing governments to snoop on journalists.
Press freedom advocates said that the measure will widen legal "loopholes" that let countries to install spyware on journalists' computers and phones, including British reporters working in the EU. The 'national security' exclusions go beyond those covered by terrorism and dangers to national security, according to the draught law that has now been approved by Brussels' ambassadors. It would permit EU governments to cite a wide range of offences, including murder, theft, and music piracy, as justification in court for employing "intrusive surveillance software" on journalists.
Advocates for press freedom cautioned that the last-minute adjustments France wanted may 'open the door to all sorts of abuses'.
Under the new drafting law, all 32 of the charges mentioned in the EU arrest warrant as well as any offence punishable by a jail term of more than five years may be utilised. Additionally, it would permit EU countries to abstain from eavesdropping on journalists if doing so would be in the public interest.
Campaigners attacked the proposed regulation because they cautioned that it may endanger journalistic freedom and have a "chilling effect" on informants. The idea of monitoring journalists in the name of national security, according to Reporters Without Borders' Brussels director Julie Majerczak, "opens the door to all kinds of abuses."
The European Federation of Journalists' director, Renate Schroeder, criticised the "dangerous loopholes" and said that the exclusions caused a "blow to media freedom."
"It increases the risk to journalists and also has a chilling effect on whistleblowers and other sources," she added. To finalise the language, EU ambassadors will now present the proposed legislation to the European Parliament. The EU's executive body, the European Commission, applauded the member states' agreement and urged swift passage of the proposed legislation.
'Major step towards the first-ever EU laws to safeguard media freedom and plurality. Vera Jourova, a commission official who sponsored the measure last year, said, "We should all do more to safeguard journalists.
"I'm hoping the Parliament can move quickly so we can reach a final agreement soon,"