Communiqué by OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media on ruling of the European Union Court of Justice
The ‘right to be forgotten’ and its possible implications for investigative journalism and media freedom.
The European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled on May 13 that search engines have an obligation to delete links to websites which publish "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" data.
The Court held that while search engines can be required to delete such links, websites that had published the data legally were not subject to the decision.
This decision might negatively affect access to information and create content and liability regimes that differ among different areas of the world, thus fragmenting the Internet and damaging its universality.
Adequate protection of personal data from public disclosure constitutes a basic right of every person and should be respected. However, information and personal data related to public figures and matters of public interest should always be accessible by the media and no restrictions or liability should be imposed on websites or intermediaries such as search engines. If excessive burdens and restrictions are imposed on intermediaries and content providers the risk of soft or self-censorship immediately appears.
Undue restrictions on media and journalistic activities are unacceptable regardless of distribution platforms and technologies.
The Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media will closely monitor the effect and implementation of the decision by national authorities and will oppose any attempt to stifle the role of or diminish instruments available to investigative journalists.
The decision was adopted by the Court in the case of a Spanish citizen who sought to have Google delete search results to an electronic version of the newspaper "La Vanguardia" which 16 years ago published a public auction notice relating to one of his properties.
Google Spain SL, et.al. v. Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, et.al.(Case C 131/12)