Two politicians wearing masks are seen in conversation behind a desk.
German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) speaks with European Council President Charles Michel ahead of an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, on October 1, 2020. The Council recently proposed undermining encryption that journalists rely on to protect themselves and their sources from surveillance. (AFP/Olivier Hoslet)

EU should withdraw draft resolution that threatens encryption

November 10, 2020—The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern after the Council of the European Union proposed a draft resolution last week calling for national authorities across the EU to have access to encrypted messages as part of criminal investigations into terrorism and organized crime. Journalists rely on encryption to evade surveillance and protect their sources, CPJ has found.

End-to-end encryption prevents authorities, company employees, and hackers from viewing the content of private digital messages, but the resolution proposes unspecified technical solutions to undermine those protections, according to rights groups European Digital Rights and Access Now. The groups said the resolution was drafted without input from privacy experts or journalists.

“EU institutions must immediately retract all plans to undermine encryption, which is vital to press freedom and the free flow of information,” said Tom Gibson, EU Representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Encryption offers essential protection for journalists who routinely communicate and share files electronically. If journalists cannot communicate safely with colleagues and sources, they cannot protect the anonymity of their sources.”

The resolution was proposed by Germany, which holds the current presidency of the Council of the European Union, and could serve as a basis for further negotiations with other EU institutions in 2021. News reports noted that the draft was leaked to the press, and could be amended before it is scheduled to be presented for adoption on November 19.

[Editor’s note: The final paragraph has been updated to reflect the status of the draft resolution.]