EU’s Controversial Draft: Media Freedom or Threat to Journalism?

Estimated read time 3 min read

If you’re a cybersecurity enthusiast, then you must have heard of the recent controversy surrounding the European Media Freedom Act draft. The proposal put forth by the EU leaders, which paves the way for national security agencies to spy on journalists, has been met with fierce opposition. Critics argue that it’s a direct threat to the sanctity of journalism and democracy itself.

Read the actual European Media Freedom Act draft here.

The Controversial EU Proposal

The European Council, representing the EU member states’ governments, dropped a bombshell last Wednesday. The first draft of the European Media Freedom Act was unveiled, allowing for spyware to be placed on journalists’ devices, if deemed necessary by national governments. What’s more, no traditional in-person meeting was held among ministers overseeing media before the release of this contentious draft.

The Opposition’s Concerns

Sophie in’t Veld, a Dutch MEP, decried this move, calling it a “lie” that the need to spy on the press was in the interest of national security. The EFJ (European Federation of Journalists), which serves over 300,000 press members in 45 countries, echoed these sentiments. They slammed EU leaders for disregarding media freedom principles, terming the move a “blow to media freedom” and a hazard that puts journalists at higher risk.

The Threat to Whistleblowers

In the critics’ view, this draft legislation isn’t just about the journalists; it’s also about their sources. By allowing governments to install spyware on journalists’ phones under the banner of “national security,” it would create a chilling effect on whistleblowers and other informants.

Pegasus Spyware: An Unseen Threat to Journalistic Freedom

The use of Pegasus spyware (video), developed by Israeli company NSO Group, has been at the center of many surveillance controversies. Last year, French intelligence confirmed its presence on the phones of three journalists, including a prominent staff member at France 24. Non-profit organizations Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International estimate that at least 180 journalists may have been earmarked for potential surveillance by NSO’s government clients.

NSO has persistently claimed that its clients use Pegasus solely to combat “serious crime and terrorism”. However, the software’s presence on journalists’ phones and its potential misuse under the draft European Media Freedom Act suggest a more complex reality.

This powerful spy tool poses a significant threat to journalism, potentially enabling invasive surveillance that compromises not only the privacy of journalists, but also the confidentiality of their sources. As the discussion around the draft legislation continues, the role of technologies like Pegasus in modern surveillance practices is undeniably under scrutiny.

A Call to Action

As the draft legislation currently stands, member states could intrude into journalists’ devices if they suspect the journalist’s sources might be communicating with criminals posing a perceived threat. The European Digital Rights (EDRi) organization has urged the European Council to rethink these national security exemptions. In the words of Chloé Berthélémy, senior policy adviser at EDRi, the council is dangerously close to legitimizing unacceptable surveillance forms against journalists and their sources.


Before this controversial draft becomes law, it must first gain approval from the European Parliament. Whether or not the European Media Freedom Act will maintain its current form is yet to be seen, but what’s clear is that this act has brought the spotlight on the delicate balance between national security and media freedom. The global community of cybersecurity readers and experts will be watching closely.

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Reza Rafati

Reza Rafati, based in the Netherlands, is the founder of An industry professional providing insightful commentary on infosec, cybercrime, cyberwar, and threat intelligence, Reza dedicates his work to bolster digital defenses and promote cyber awareness.

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