By Dirk Voorhoof, Ghent University
After proceedings at the national level during eight years, and after a preliminary ruling by the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg on 16 December 2008 (Case C-73/07), the European Court of Human Rights (Fourth section) in Strasbourg has delivered a controversial judgment in the domain of protection of personal data and data journalism. In Satakunnan Markkinapörssi Oy and Satamedia Oy v. Finland, the Court comes to the conclusion that a prohibition issued by the Finnish Data Protection Board that prohibited two media companies (further: Satamedia) from publishing personal data in the manner and to the extent they had published these data before, is to be considered as a legal, legitimate and necessary interference with the applicants’ right to freedom of expression and information.
The European Court agrees with the Finnish authorities that the applicants could not rely on the exception of journalistic activities within the law of protection of personal data. In finding no violation of the right to freedom of expression and information, the Court not only accepts a restrictive interpretation of the notion of journalistic activity, it also reduces drastically the impact of the right to information of public interest.