Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court rejects data protection law clause on media
Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court has ruled unconstitutional an article of the Personal Data Protection Act that set out 10 criteria for deciding whether journalists have complied with the balance between the right to information and that of personal data protection.
A notice on the website of the Constitutional Court said that the ruling had been adopted at a sitting of the 12-member court, with all judges present, with eight in favour and four signing a dissenting opinion.
The ruling comes nine months after the Personal Data Protection Act was gazetted. It had been vetoed by President Roumen Radev, but the National Assembly exercised its prerogative to overturn his veto. The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party then approached the Constitutional Court about the clauses regarding the media.
The Constitutional Court held that the 10 criteria were too vague and could create a risk of arbitrary interpretations.
The lack of clarity in the wording opened the way for the Commission for Data Protection “to have unpredictable power to interpret it not necessarily in the public interest regarding pluralistic information about the policies and activities of government,” the court said.
Hidden forms of censorship could in practice be a real threat to the effective exercise of the right to expression and to disseminate information freely. The texts would lead to self-censorship by the media, the court found.
In its decision, the Constitutional Court examined in detail the right to freedom of expression, information and protection of the available data and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, emphasising that a balance must be sought in protecting these rights.
Bulgaria’s Parliament approved the Personal Data Protection Act in a bid to reflect in domestic law the provisions of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)