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Privacy Vs Free Expression: Global News Media Implications Of The EU’S General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)



By Ayden Férdeline

Personal data privacy, or the general lack thereof online, has garnered a considerable amount of attention in the past month, especially in the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica controversy. The European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will take effect on May 25 after having been a decade in the making, will fundamentally change how personal data can be collected and processed. Some have even held up this new European privacy regulation as a potential remedyfor corporate neglect of individual privacy. Without a doubt, the impact of this extraordinary revision to European privacy law will be felt by journalists and publishers both inside and outside of Europe as they negotiate news standards that affect how they handle personal information.

The GDPR is playing a decisive role in the ongoing harmonization of global privacy standards by the large tech platforms. This is because the Council of the European Union has advised the European Commission that it cannot negotiate away privacy rights in trade agreements, and so a need to comply with the GDPR in order to do business in Europe will likely incentivize businesses to adopt higher privacy and data protection standards for their entire operations worldwide.

The reach of the GDPR is broad. It applies to all sectors which collect or process the data of people ordinarily resident in the European Union, including the news media. Unusually, its scope is extraterritorial, meaning that it applies irrespective of whether the “data controller” is based in a European Union member state or another country altogether. The data controller is the entity legally responsible and subject to enforcement action. For staff reporters, for example, the data controller would be the media outlet employing them. However, freelance journalists or citizen journalists would be seen as either sole or joint data controllers. The distinction between sole or joint controller is not too important, because in either case, the freelancer would personally absorb the liability for complying with the GDPR.

In order to understand why this is the case, it is helpful to explore the key principles contained within the GDPR. The GDPR applies whenever a journalist (or other entity) collects or publishes information about a living person. The GDPR holds that data subjects are entitled to control over their personal data, that data controllers must be held accountable for their actions, and it says that privacy must be the default setting.

These principles will not, for the most part, present a burden to journalists. If you are honest and transparent with a source and they are aware they are being interviewed on-the-record and disclosing information for publication, you will have met the criteria for consent.

Reassuringly, however, there are some exemptions within the GDPR for the production and publication of legitimate journalistic work where obtaining consent would not be practical. However, this exemption is only for journalists and not for media outlets in general, so the ”business side” of a publication must always comply with the GDPR. One lawful condition for the collection and publication of personal data without consent is where the legitimate interests of another party override those of the individual. What this means is vague, but essentially it is saying, the burden is on a journalist to determine that the public interest in collecting and processing personal data outweighs the rights of the individual to privacy.

How such a balancing test should be performed in practice is up to the media outlet, but in keeping with the GDPR’s principles, it would seem there should be consideration as to the potential harm that publication could cause to the data subject. Journalists should also consider whether or not the story could be reported in a less intrusive manner.

It is not enough to merely comply with the GDPR. Data controllers must be able to verifiably demonstrate their compliance with the regulation. The supervisory authorities tasked with enforcing the GDPR have the right to obtain a data controller’s internal operating procedures for processing and safeguarding personal data. Given this, it would be advisable for publications to have clear, documented policies as to editorial flows and who should sign off on what kinds of stories prior to publication. This audit trail is very important, especially for stories which could be seen as very intrusive and which do not concern public figures. Another good practice would be to ensure journalists undergo basic data protection awareness training, so that publications can demonstrate to supervisory authorities that their personnel can distinguish between personal, sensitive, and non-personal data.

The GDPR requires that personal and sensitive information be kept secure. Journalists must take reasonable steps to prevent their notes and research materials from being lost or stolen. You should be careful when out in public as to whether prying eyes could read your laptop screen or steal data over the Wi-Fi network. A good practice would be to encrypt information and to set up your devices so that they can be remotely wiped, if lost or stolen.

There is a perception that the GDPR is a heavy-handed regulation that is difficult to comply with, and while this is true for some industries and business functions, it should not cause consternation for journalists. Many provisions within the GDPR that have generated headlines are misunderstood and instead constitute best practices in information security. Lawmakers have carved out many safeguards for the exercise of freedom of expression, including within the right to erasure (also known as the ‘right to be forgotten’). This right is not absolute and only applies in certain circumstances. Another provision, that data “must be accurate,” merely indicates that if an individual disputes the accuracy of information concerning them within a story, the data controller should verify their records and, if necessary, affix a correction to the online archives.

The tussle between the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression is not new, and not easily resolved, because both are equally fundamental, but the GDPR tries to strike an appropriate balance between the two. The GDPR’s fundamental principles of accuracy, security, fairness, and respect for the rights of the individual whose data is being processed are about building trust. In an age where trust in our institutions, and in the media, is on the decline, the GDPR should be seen as an opportunity to institutionalize respect for getting things right – developing practices for handling information securely, keeping the identities of sources safe and confidential, and upholding your reputation. There will be challenges ahead, but there is real value to be derived from the GDPR too.

Extracted from CIMA

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Breaking: Witness Radio and Partners to Launch Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy Project Tomorrow.



By Witness Radio Team.

Witness Radio, in collaboration with Dan Church Aid (DCA) and the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD), is set to launch the Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy for Human Rights in Uganda (MDA-HRU) project tomorrow, 22nd February 2024, at Kabalega Resort Hotel in Hoima District.

The project, funded by the European Union, aims to promote the protection and respect for human rights, and enable access to remedy where violations occur especially in the Mid-Western and Karamoja sub-regions where private sector actors are increasingly involved in land-based investments (LBIs) through improved documentation, and evidence-based advocacy.

The three-year project, which commenced in October 2023, focuses its activities in the Mid-Western sub-region, covering Bulisa, Hoima, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibale, and Mubende districts, and Karamoja sub-region, covering Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nabilatuk, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, and Karenga districts.

The project targets individuals and groups at high risk of human rights violations, including Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs). It also engages government duty bearers such as policymakers and implementers in relevant ministries and local governments, recognizing their crucial role in securing land and environmental rights. Additionally, the project involves officials from institutional duty bearers including the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Equal Opportunities Commission, and courts, among others.

Representatives from the international community, faith leaders, and business actors are also included in the project’s scope, particularly those involved in land-based investments (LBIs) impacting the environment.

The project was initially launched in Moroto for the Karamoja region on the 19th of this month with the leadership of the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD).

According to the project implementors,  the action is organized into four activity packages aimed at; enhancing the capacity and skills of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs) in monitoring, documentation, reporting (MDR), and protection, establishing and reinforcing reporting and documentation mechanisms for advocacy and demand for corporate and government accountability;  providing response and support to HRDs and marginalized communities; and lastly facilitating collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagements that link local and national issues to national and international frameworks and spaces.

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Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.



By Witness Radio team.

Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.

The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.

During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.

Participants attending the dialogue.

In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.

According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.

The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.

The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.

“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.

Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.

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Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes



The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.

Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.

Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”

She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.

The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.

“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.

According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.

“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.

“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.

Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.

Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.


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