In an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, 70 human rights groups from 40 different countries condemned the British government’s reaction to intelligence information leaked by Edward Snowden, saying the government is “eroding fundamental human rights in the country.”
Earlier this year, Snowden leaked thousands of intelligence documents to The Guardian revealing a massive surveillance program carried out by Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) and its U.S. counterpart, the National Security Agency (NSA).
Cameron had hard drives containing some of the data released by Snowden destroyed, but The Guardian continued to report on the issue in partnership with The New York Times.
“In a climate of intense pressure from the UK government, The Guardian decided to bring in a U.S. partner to work on the GCHQ documents provided by Edward Snowden. We are working in partnership with The New York Times and others to continue reporting these stories,” The Guardian said in a statement in August.
Published on Nov. 3 in The Guardian, the open letter expressed concern about the government’s use of national security legislation to attack those who brought “public interest information” to light through coverage of government surveillance.
“The government's response has been to condemn, rather than celebrate, investigative journalism, which plays a crucial role in a healthy democratic society,” the signatories said.
The letter also cited the detention of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, as an attack on press freedom. Miranda was detained in London’s Heathrow Airport for almost nine hours on August 18 under a counterterrorism law.
“The right to freedom of expression includes the protection of both journalists, and those that assist them in the course of their vital work,” they said.
The letter condemned Cameron’s Oct. 16 announcement of a parliamentary anti-terrorism investigation into whether the Guardian’s reporting on leaks “damaged national security.”
“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,” the letter said.