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UK must account for its actions to repress Guardian reporting on surveillance

© Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The pressure to destroy documents placed on the Guardian newspaper by the UK authorities represents a threat to freedom of expression, the right to information and the protection of the independence of the media in the UK, Amnesty International said today. 

The Guardian has reported that the UK authorities repeatedly threatened the newspaper’s management with legal action and pressured it to destroy information it had received from US whistleblower Edward Snowden. The information destroyed relates to unlawful surveillance by the US and the UK governments in violation of people’s right to privacy.

Amnesty International Deputy Director of Law and Policy Tawanda Hondora said:

“Insisting that the Guardian destroys information received from a whistleblower, without the authority of a court order, is a sinister turn of events 

“This is an example of the government trying to undermine press freedoms. It also seriously undermines the right of the public to know what governments do with their personal and private information. If confirmed, these actions expose the UK’s hypocrisy as it pushes for freedom of expression overseas.

“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.

“Using strong-arm tactics to try to silence media outlets and reports that divulge information relating to Prism and other surveillance efforts, clearly against the public interest."

The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, published allegations about the UK authorities’ actions over the past several months to pressure the newspaper to hand over or destroy evidence relating to government surveillance.

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