The Data Protection Act cannot be used to hinder NGOs right to freedom of expression

August 26, 2014

Press Release 26 August 2014

Din l-Art Helwa expresses its concern about the recent decision by the office of the Data Protection Commissioner, as reported in the press, to charge Birdlife Malta with an alleged breach of the Data Protection Act in connection with a series of films by a British journalist during the 2014 Spring hunting season.

The Data Protection Act cannot be used to inhibit freedom of expression. In this case the journalist who uploaded his films on the internet was exercising his right of freedom of expression as well as his journalistic freedom, and the Data Protection Act cannot be used to restrict such rights.

The decision to charge Birdlife Malta with the abuse of personal data because the filming was carried out “with the support of Birdlife Malta” appears to go completely against the spirit of the Data Protection Act.

This decision reflects badly on the right to freedom of expression for civil society in Malta, and Din l-Art Helwa maintains that the government should look into the matter and also update the existing legislation if necessary to ensure that the right to freedom of expression is adequately safeguarded.

Instead of wasting time on pursuing this ill-advised case, the government should dedicate its resources to the real issue in this matter, which is to clamp down on the illegal hunting of birds.

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