UN Special Rapporteur Criticizes UK Attitude towards Press Freedom
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression blamed the UK government for its reaction to the Guardian newspaper’s revelations about the secret surveillance programs.
The UN high-ranking official, Frank La Rue, has warned that the UK government’s response to revelations of mass surveillance by Edward Snowden is damaging Britain’s reputation for press freedom and investigative journalism.
According to RT, La Rue has also said that he is alarmed at the reaction from some British politicians following the Guardian’s revelations about the extent of the secret surveillance programs run by the UK’s eavesdropping center GCHQ and its US counterpart the NSA (National Security Agency).
“I have been absolutely shocked about the way the Guardian has been treated, from the idea of prosecution to the fact that some members of parliament even called it treason. I think that is unacceptable in a democratic society,” he said.
Speaking to the Guardian, La Rue said that national security cannot be used as an argument against newspapers for publishing information that is in the public interest even if doing so is embarrassing for those who are in office.
The Guardian as well as other major world media organizations including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Der Spiegel began disclosing details about the US and UK’s mass surveillance programs in June, after receiving leaked documents from former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.
The publications have sparked a huge global debate on whether such surveillance powers are justified, but in Britain there have been calls for the Guardian to be prosecuted and the editor, Alan Rusbridger, has been called to give evidence to the home affairs select committee.
The Prime Minister David Cameron has even warned that unless the newspaper begins to demonstrate some social responsibility, then he would take “tougher measures” including the issuing of D notices, which ban a newspaper or broadcaster from touching certain material.
Rusbridger, who has been the editor of the left-leaning British daily since 1995, defended his papers actions saying that it has provoked debate on the issue of mass surveillance where MPs failed to do so.
The first Snowden leaks were broken in the Guardian by Brazil-based journalist Glen Greenwald.
In August, the Guardian revealed that it decided to destroy the computer hard drives containing copies of secret files leaked by Edward Snowden after the threat of legal action from the government.
Also in August, Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was detained at London’s Heathrow airport under the Terrorism Act for ferrying documents between Greenwald and Berlin based film maker Laura Poitras, who has also been working on stories related to the NSA files.