Module 2: Newsgathering

Module 2: Newsgathering

The right to information is considered a fundamental human right, protected by various international legal instruments, including Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that newsgathering is an essential preparatory step in journalism and is an inherent, protected part of press freedom rights under Article 10. But as always, strong protections in law do not by themselves mean robust protections in practice.

The fact is, rise of digital technology has revolutionized news gathering but it has proved a double-edged sword par excellence. On one hand, it has created unprecedented opportunities to find and cultivate sources, gather and manipulate amounts of data on a massive scale, collaborate with other journalists around the world, and more. On the other, it has made protecting those sources’ confidentiality difficult to the point of impossible in so, made verification of information that much more difficult, and created a whole new category of privacy questions that journalists are only beginning to confront. This Module will focus on various challenges journalist face when trying to access public data under national freedom of information (FOI) laws and handle private and/or confidential data. Protecting the identity of journalistic sources and materials provided by them will also be covered in Module 2.

Unit 4: Access to Public Data

Unit 4 explores the legal principles and case law related to access to public information, and how both domestic and the European Court of Human Rights are shaping the scope and limitations of these rights. Freedom of information laws are a fundamental tool not only for investigative journalists, but also for all other actors publishing information in the public interest, such as non-governmental and watchdog organizations. We also look at case studies of how different media outlets and NGOs in the region are using public information claims to produce groundbreaking stories on government spending, corruption, and state surveillance activities.

Unit 5: Handling private and confidential data

Where is the line between your right to access information and another person’s right to privacy? Unit 5 examines the legal and ethical issues related to gathering private information, ranging from personal to confidential data. We review the legal boundaries and limits of the right to access private data, and explore the increasingly blurred line between public and private information in the digital age. The European Court’s strong stance on access to public information has been offset by its equally strong stance on privacy. We’ll look closer at key cases at the European level around use of digital media tools to gather information.

Unit 6: Protecting sources and source materials

Unit 6 looks at journalists’ rights and obligations to keep sources and source materials confidential, and the challenges that digital technology presents to doing so. While it is now easy for journalists to communicate with sources all around the world via electronic means, and to obtain, gather and retain data, it is also easy for state and other actors to gain access to that data. Against the background of existing international standards, we will address the main challenges to these rights in the digital age (such as surveillance and national security); it will consider why protecting sources is important; who is a journalist for source protection purposes; what obligations does a journalist owe a source; and what practical precautions and methods a journalist can employ to keep their sources and data secure.