Amnesty International, journalists and affiliated organizations are condemning the repression of Guardian reporting by UK government, calling the move an ‘attack’ on freedom of press.
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger revealed on that two officers from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) visited his office and “oversaw the destruction of hard drives containing copies of information provided to the newspaper by the whistleblower.”
Human rights organization Amnesty International issued a statement on Tuesday saying the pressure placed on the newspaper by UK government to destroy the hard drives is an attack on freedom of press and expression and independence of media in the country.
Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International, said, “Insisting that the Guardian destroy information received from a whistleblower is a sinister turn of events.”
“The UK government must explain its actions and publicly affirm its commitment to the rule of law, freedom of expression and the independence of the media. They should initiate an inquiry into who ordered this action against the Guardian.”
This controversy erupted just after two days after the Guardian columnist and NSA reporter Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was held by UK officers at Heathrow Airport for carrying sensitive equipment and intelligence data.
US-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the global defense of press freedom, Committee to Protect Journalists also criticized the ‘official’ harassment of Guardian offices and David Miranda’s detention:
“Dear Prime Minister Cameron,
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international media freedom organization, calls on you to launch a thorough and transparent investigation into the detention and harassment of David Miranda by the London Metropolitan Police and to ensure that his confiscated equipment and data are returned at once.”
“The use of anti-terror laws to seize journalistic material from Miranda, partner and assistant to Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, is deeply troubling and not in keeping with the U.K's historic commitment to press freedom.”
Journalists are also condemning UK’s attempt to halt investigative reporting. Canadian columnist and author Heather Mallick wrote an opinion on the incident, saying the move made by the UK government was an attack on reporting. She said, “So when it began reporting on Snowden’s revelations that every citizen online or on the phone was being spied on, enraged governments were bound to strike back in concert.”
UK-based journalist Assed Baig also commented on the episode. He tweeted:
So the UK government forced the Guardian to destroy Snowden material. And they have rhe audacity to take the moral high ground with others— AssedBaig (@AssedBaig) August 20, 2013
Freedom of the Press in this country? Forget about it. If you stand up to the establishment they'll come down on you— AssedBaig (@AssedBaig) August 21, 2013
So it seems that David Cameron has a lot of explaining to do; especially now when news has emerged that “British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered his top civil servant to try to stop revelations flowing from the Guardian newspaper about U.S. and British surveillance programmes.”
Is the freedom of press really under attack in the UK?