European Union lawmakers are aiming to protect journalists from member states’ targeting them with spyware following a number of high-profile incidents across the bloc.
Alongside measures promoting ownership transparency and editorial independence, the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) proposed on Friday will introduce “strong safeguards against the use of spyware against media, journalists and their families.”
Article 4 of the regulation — an EU instrument which has direct effect without member states’ needing to reflect it with their own legislation — introduces a general prohibition on member states trying to:
“detain, sanction, intercept, subject to surveillance or search and seizure, or inspect media service providers or, if applicable, their family members, their employees or their family members, or their corporate and private premises, on the ground that they refuse to disclose information on their sources, unless this is justified by an overriding requirement in the public interest.”
It also explicitly bans any attempt to:
“deploy spyware in any device or machine used by media service providers or, if applicable, their family members, or their employees or their family members, unless the deployment is justified, on a case-by-case basis, on grounds of national security”
However the proposals are novel for the European Union which typically takes a back seat to member states’ sovereignty both when it comes to media regulation and to laws affecting security, both of which are generally considered a matter of sovereignty for each state.
The proposals may still be resisted by governments — represented in the European