Democracy & Justice

Liberties' May Recap | Politicians Pining For Our Data & EU Makes a Retreat - this & more

A monthly round-up of Liberties' work: politicians push for exceptional access to our sensitive data, EU retreats on Defence of Democracy package & inaugural Campaign Accelerator winners announced.

by LibertiesEU

Welcome to Liberties' monthly round-up, where we catch you up on the most pressing human rights topics we've been working on. This month, we've been making lots of noise about plans by EU lawmakers to allow politicians to use our sensitive data for political advertising. And after all the shouting we did last month, we're pleased to see the EU Commission heeded our warnings about the Defence of Democracy package.

In a nutshell

Media Freedom: On 3rd May, World Media Freedom Day, we gave another listen to Liberties’ Senior Advocacy Officer Eva Simon who discussed how media ownership is key on the Information Labs podcast

+ Liberties’ Media Freedom Report was quoted in a Guardian News article

Transparency: Liberties was one of 200 NGOs supporting Transparency International’s open letter calling on the EU Commission to uphold corporate transparency

Anti-NGO Law: Liberties, alongside 230 NGOs, signed an open letter speaking out against the EU’s proposed Foreign Agent law

AI & Mass Surveillance: On May 11th, the EU Parliament Committees IMCO and LIBE took an important step by voting to ban discriminatory surveillance technologies in the draft AI Act.

Europe Day: To celebrate Europe Day, Liberties’ published a messaging guide for civil rights defenders on how to communicate on the rights of people from marginalised groups.

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In focus

Political advertising

Whatever our party, most of us agree that we should be free to vote for the leaders we want. At the moment, we can make that choice knowing what our candidates stand for in the EU. But as we celebrated the 5th anniversary of the GDPR on May 25th, certain EU lawmakers want to rip out some of its protections, so they can use our deeply personal information to tailor political ads and tip political elections and campaigns in their favour. For us at Liberties, sensitive data is a red line. We urge the EU to include a total ban on sensitive data for political advertising!

Check out our Q&A, where we've done our best to answer any questions you might have about this topic and why your signature matters.

Sign our petition to make your voice heard and protect our freedom to choose.

Interested in more details before signing the petition?

Read our op-ed in EuroNews: Sex, religion and race are advertising taboos, except for power-hungry politicians

Defence of Democracy Package

Liberties’ Op-ed in Politico: Defending democracy requires a free civil society

In copying the narrative spun by authoritarians, the Commission’s transparency plan risks undermining democracy — and it threatens the survival of NGOs.

Read the op-ed here.

Democracy Drinks: NGO 'Foreign Agent' Law: Will the EU Follow Russia's Path?

Hot off the press, it was announced this week that the European Commission is indefinitely delaying its highly contested Defence of Democracy package, which was due to be unveiled on June 7th. The retreat follows weeks of uproar from NGOs, who warned the ‘Foreign Agent’ law would have unintended, harmful consequences on democracy. As recommended by Liberties, the Commission has indicated it intends to conduct a full impact assessment before proceeding with the package.

And what had civil society up in arms?

This was the subject of discussion for Liberties’ May edition of Democracy Drinks. Owing to the European Commission’s secrecy civil society was left in the dark about the exact contents of the package, however, initially these new rules were understood to be directed only at NGOs receiving funding from third country donors. During the Democracy Drinks event, Liberties’ executive director Balázs Dénes was able to shed some light on this, sharing some exclusive insights following his participation in a round table discussion, organised by the Bertelsmann Foundation and with European Parliament Vice-President Věra Jourová in attendance

Read all about it here.

Democracy Drinks is an informal networking event for civil society colleagues, which Liberties has been organising in Berlin since 2019. Each month we invite a special guest to discuss a pressing social issue affecting democracy.

How do I stay in the loop? | Shoot us an email at to be added to our mailing list.

Try before you buy | Read a write-up of our past Democracy Drinks events.

Network news:

AI Act: The compromise text of the AI Act, voted through by European Parliament committees, contains key changes suggested by Liberties’ Irish member, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. Congrats! Read more here.

È vietata la tortura (Torture is prohibited): Following 100 monitoring visits to prison establishments, Antigone, one of Liberties’ Italian members, has published its annual report analysing prison conditions in Italy, focuses on the criminalisation of torture. Read it here.

Lithuania dropped to 36th position in the ILGA Rainbow index: Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI), our Lithuanian member, highlighted the findings of ILGA 2023 review which found that Lithuania dropped from 35th to 36th in the ILGA Rainbow index. The biggest issues: ill-treatment of LGBT asylum-seekers, hate speech, and inequalities in same-sex marriage. Read more here.

Together against digital violence: Our German member GFF has published its proposal for the Digital Violence Protection Act, which is planned by the German Federal Ministry of Justice. GFF’s draft proposes court-ordered account blocks that quickly stop violence and a right of petition for civil society. Read more here.

Ethnic profiling par for the course in Spain: Rights International Spain, Liberties’ Spanish member, published the results of a survey of around 40 organizations throughout Spain, which points to the persistence of ethnic and racial criteria in police activity. Read more here.

Protest in Hungary - limited, burdensome, & risky: Our Hungarian member, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, have written an article reflecting on the reduced means of protesting available in Hungary, following a crackdown on demonstrators and a shrinking of the rights linked to protests. Read more here.

Inaugural Campaign Accelerator Summer School: Winner’s Announcement

Liberties is delighted to announce we have chosen three applications from a diverse and competitive applicant pool to participate in the first-ever Campaign Accelerator summer course, to be held this June. During the course, participants will learn how to implement a comprehensive, values-based communications strategy to maximize the reach and impact of their campaigns.

Big congrats to the successful applicants:

  • The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union plans to run a campaign to strengthen environmental activism in Hungary.
  • The campaign of the Stop Corruption Foundation, from Slovakia, aims to boost public participation among the youth.
  • Finally, AlgorithmWatch from Germany aims to help platform workers – those who work, for example, for our beloved home-delivery food platforms – to fight back against unjust automated-decision making, including termination.

Read more here.

Do you want to join us? Check out our vacancies

Are you a student interested in a career in communications in the NGO sector? We are looking for a Communications & Campaigns Assistant (Intern) to join us for an internship position.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. More information here.

What we’re reading:

Transparency: How I Helped The New York Times Sue The European Commission - Follow The Money

AI: Who Killed The EU’s Translators? - Politico

Privacy: Meta hit with record-breaking $1.3 billion fine over Facebook data transfers to the US - The Verge - Shout out to Liberties’ Irish member the Irish Council for Civil Liberties who were quoted in the article.

Here’s a sneak peek at what Liberties will be getting up to in June

Watchdogging in June: New developments are expected in these hot topics during the coming weeks, and we’ll be shaping the narrative to ensure the EU makes the right moves.

Political Advertisements: The trilogue meetings to discuss EU’s regulation on political advertisements may reach a conclusive stage in the coming weeks. Whatever the outcome, we’ll be pushing lawmakers to ban the use of sensitive data in political advertising.

RightsCon: Liberties’ Senior Advocacy Officer Eva Simon is speaking at RightsCon, a summit on human rights in a digital age, taking place in Costa Rica.

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