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IFJ/EFJ Call for Anti-Terrorism Law Review after Attacks on Freedom of British Media

26 August 2013

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have joined their affiliate, the National Union of Journalists (UK and Ireland), in condemning the detention of David Miranda and the destruction of documents held by the Guardian, stating that these incidents are new attacks on media freedom and a gross misuse of the law.

Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist reporting on the mass surveillance programmes by the United Sates National Security Agency (NSA), was held by British police at Heathrow airport for nine hours on Sunday, 18 August, under schedule 7 of the UK's anti-terror laws.

Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 act allows travellers to be questioned under the guise of preventing terrorism. They have no right to remain silent or receive legal advice, and they may be detained for up to nine hours.

According to Miranda, he was not asked any questions about terrorism but was forced to divulge email and social media account passwords during his interrogation and he had his electronic equipment confiscated.

Following the incident, the editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, on Monday, 19 August, revealed that the British government had contacted the newspaper about material it had obtained from US whistleblower Edward Snowden. Rusbridger said a senior government official asked him to return or destroy all the NSA documents leaked to the paper, and he then agreed to destroy two hard drives in the presence of two GCHQ security experts.

"We are shocked and deeply concerned at the incidents in Britain over the last few days," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "The detention of David Miranda and the revelations by the Guardian are clear indications there has been an abuse of the so-called anti-terror laws in the country. "This raises crucial questions - not only whether the use of S7 was appropriate or legally justified but also what role did British ministers play in this process. We support the call for the British Parliament to investigate by whom and why the Guardian was asked to destroy or surrender the documents."

The IFJ and the EFJ have been campaigning for a revision of anti-terrorism laws for a number of years. In 2011, to mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, a joint conference was held in Brussels to debate the war on terror and its impact on the world's media where journalists demanded a review of all counter-terrorism and national security laws and the elimination of all laws that criminalise acts of journalism.

"We ask governments to take immediate action to review or evaluate the use of anti-terror-legislation. Article 11 of the European Charter of the Fundamental Rights has been grossly violated," said EFJ President Mogens Blicher-Bjerregård. "We need a clear and strong message from political leaders that democratic values are not negotiable.

"The incidents of the past week in Britain represent the latest proof of the continued erosion of civil rights and media freedom. Journalists across the world are coming under growing scrutiny and surveillance, being stopped at borders, and their work interfered with, simply for carrying out their jobs. Such actions are wholly unacceptable and IFJ/EFJ back the call of the NUJ for a proper and independent review of terrorism legislation by the European Commission and the European Court of Human Rights."

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 17
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries