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20.11.2017

Danish trade secrets bill must protect whistleblowers

By Emil Weber

The Danish Union of Journalists (DJ) has criticised a draft law on trade secrets for failing to protect journalists’ sources and whistleblowers. And the European Federation of Journalists is supporting the DJ. 

Danish trade secrets bill must protect whistleblowers ECPMF media lawyer Flutura Kusari: Photo: Andreas Lamm

The law was initiated to comply with a 2016 European Union directive on “the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure”.

But the DJ claims the new bill deviates from the “faithful implementation of the text of the EU directive” by omitting several original exemptions.

“The bill in its present form does not contain the necessary protection of journalists and whistleblowers in cases where disclosure of a trade secret may be said to serve a general and public interest”, the union said in a November 3rd letter to the Danish Patent and Trademark Office.

“An example might be if a trade secret were to be published in a newspaper article or television broadcast as an inevitable part of the uncovering of abuse or other illegal activity on the part of a company, authority or organisation”.

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) on 20th November urged the national Danish authorities to take into consideration the concerns raised by the Danish Union of Journalists regarding the draft bill on trade secrets.

Sources need legal protection

“Journalistic sources and whistleblowers are important to journalists as they provide information, which in the absence of necessary legal protection, would not become public”, said Ms. Flutura Kusari, media lawyer at ECPMF. “For this reason, EU Directive 2016/943 should be implemented adequately by national authorities and should not be used to curtail the right of journalistic sources and whistleblowers to speak up”.

According to the Danish Union of Journalists, the bill should contain clauses which would ensure that the disclosure of trade secrets in media publications would not be considered illegal in cases where it “serves a general and public interest” and where “the information containing the trade secret could not reasonably be provided by other means”.

“The draft bill should be supplemented with an explicit reference stating that the special provisions of the Administration of Justice Act on the right to protection of sources, etc., shall apply in connection with court cases involving journalists and the media”, the DJ said.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), joining the DJ stance, on November 9th reminded that it had warned the EU directive contained unclear wording and that “safeguards for freedom of the media will largely depend on how national governments implement the directive”.





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