Concern over UK's response to recent surveillance issues

Monday, November 4, 2013
His Excellency David Cameron Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 10 Downing Street London SW1A 2AA Dear Prime Minister, I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world. CJFE has joined an international coalition of free speech, media freedom and human rights organisations because we believe that the United Kingdom government’s response to the revelations of mass surveillance of digital communications is eroding fundamental human rights in the country. The government’s response has been to condemn, rather than celebrate investigative journalism, which plays a crucial role in a healthy democratic society. We are alarmed at the way in which the UK government has reacted, using national security legislation against those who have helped bring this public interest information to global attention. We are concerned about:
  • • The use of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to detain the Brazilian media worker, David Miranda on 18 August 2013 at London Heathrow Airport. Miranda was carrying journalistic material on behalf of the UK’s Guardian newspaper and is the partner of the journalist, Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story of mass surveillance of digital communications by the UK and USA
  • • The sustained pressure against the UK’s Guardian newspaper for reporting the disclosures of whistleblower, Edward Snowden, including sending officials to force the Guardian to destroy harddrives allegedly containing information from Snowden
  • • Your call on 16 October 2013 for a House of Commons Select Committee to review whether the Guardian has damaged national security by publishing material provided by Edward Snowden, and a subsequent announcement that the review will be conducted by the Home Affairs Select Committee as part of their inquiry into anti-terrorism.
We believe these actions clearly violate the right to freedom of expression, which is protected under British, European and international law. Under such laws, the right to freedom of expression includes the protection of both journalists, and those that assist them in the course of their vital work. The right to freedom of expression and media freedom enable the free flow of information in order for the public to hold their governments to account. While the protection of national security can be a legitimate ground for restricting the right under international law, such restrictions are narrowly defined. Governments must show that a restriction is necessary to achieve a legitimate purpose and must be proportionate to the aim pursued. The presumption in favour of freedom of expression requires governments to demonstrate that the expression will actually harm national security; it is not sufficient to simply say that it will. National security should never be used to justify preventing disclosures of illegalities or wrongdoing, no matter how embarrassing such disclosures may be to the UK or other governments. In the case of Snowden and the Guardian, the disclosures have facilitated a much-needed public debate about mass surveillance in a democracy, and exposed the possible violation of the fundamental human rights of millions of people worldwide. As such, no liability should be incurred as the benefit to the public outweighs the demonstrable harm to national security. We also believe that this use of national security will have dangerous consequences for the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in the UK and beyond, creating a hostile and intimidating environment and discouraging those who could reveal uncomfortable truths and hold those in power to account. We are concerned that this will further create negative consequences for the reputation of the UK as an advocate for the protection and realisation of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom worldwide. States with little regard for the human rights of their people will seek to use the UK’s example to legitimise their own repressive practices. The UK has a strong history of democracy, and while targeted surveillance may play an important role in protecting national security, in doing so it should not erode the very values it seeks to protect. We call on you to honour the UK’s international obligations to defend and protect the right to freedom of expression and media freedom, and to end the UK government’s pressure on the Guardian and those who assist them. We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply. Yours Sincerely, Arnold Amber, CJFE President Gergana Jouleva, Access to Information Programme, Bulgaria Mircea Toma, ActiveWatch, Romania Ahmad Quraishi, Afghanistan Journalists Center Remzi Lani, Albanian Media Institute Thomas Hughes, ARTICLE 19, international Zuliana Lainez, Asociacion Nacional de Periodistas del Peru (ANP) Khaled Amami, Association of Citizenship and Digital Culture (ACCUN), Tunisia Jasna Milanovic, Association of Independent Electronic Media, Serbia Hans de Zwart, Bits for Freedom, Netherlands Guilherme Alpendre, Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism Yuri Dzhibladze, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia Ramana Sorn, Cambodian Center for Human Rights Olexandra Matviichuk, Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine Ioana Avadani, Center for Independent Journalism, Romania Masjaliza Hamzah, Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia Paul Dawnson Formaran, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippines Dr Leila Alieva, Center for National and International Studies, Azerbaijan Edison Lanza, Centro de Archivos y Acceso a la Información Pública (CAinfo), Uruguay Cristian Horchert, Chaos Computer Club, Germany Kate Watters, Crude Accountability, USA Jillian York, Electronic Frontier Foundation, international Jo Glanville, English PEN Shiva Gaunle, Federation of Nepali Journalists Karim Lahidji, FIDH / International Federation for Human Rights Andres D’Alessandro, Foro de Periodismo Argentino, Argentina Chiranuch Jiew, Foundation for Community Educational Media (Prachatai), Thailand Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation, USA Ayushjav Tumurbaatar, Globe International Center, Mongolia Eka Popkhadze, GYLA, Georgia Artus Sakunts, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, Armenia Avetik Ishkhanyan, Helsinki Committee of Armenia Danuta Przywara, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland Eldar Zeynalov, Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan Rasul Jafarov, Human Rights Club, Azerbaijan Robert Ssempala, Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda Sanar Yurdatapan, Initiative for Freedom of Expression, Turkey Emin Huseynov, Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Azerbaijan Mayumi Ortecho, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, Latin America Elizabeth Ballantine, Inter American Press Association Ann-Sophie Nyman, International Partnership for Human Rights, Belgium Alison Bethel McKenzie, International Press Institute Yevgeniy Zhovtis, Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law Mariya Yasenovska, Kharkiv Regional Foundation 'Public Alternative', Ukraine Alban Muriqi, Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty, UK Prof. Amal Jamal, Media Center for Arab Palestinians, Israel Meri Bekeshova, Media Workers’ Trade Union of Kyrgyz Republic Nani Jansen, Media Legal Defence Initiative, UK Soe Myint, Mizzima, Myanmar Ludmilla Alexeeva, Moscow Helsinki Group Omar Faruk Osman, National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) Andre Loconte, Net Users’ Rights Protection Association (NURPA), Belgium Gunnar M. Ekelove-Slydal, Norwegian Helsinki Committee Alberto Cerda, ONG Derechos Digitales, Chile Makereta Komai, Pacific Islands News Association Owais Aslam Ali, Pakistan Press Foundation Mousa Rimawi, Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms Larry Siems, PEN American Center Tasleem Thawar, PEN Canada Laura McVeigh and Anders Heger, PEN International Gus Hosein, Privacy International Natalia Taubina, Public Verdict, Russia Christophe Deloire, Reporters Without Borders, international Oleksandra Sverdlova, No Borders Project, Social Action Center, Ukraine Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Southeast Asian Press Alliance Nalini Elumalai, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) Alison Meston, WAN-IFRA, international Maria Pia Matta Cerna, World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) Arthur Gwagwa, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Cc: His Excellency Gordon Campbell, High Commissioner for Canada to the United Kingdom His Excellency Howard Drake OBE, British High Commissioner to Canada The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.