Total Pageviews

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Snowden Files, Press Freedom and Britain

Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee in London on Tuesday.-/Agence France-Presse â€" Getty Images Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee in London on Tuesday.

As Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, faced questions on Tuesday from members of a Parliamentary committee about publishing classified National Security Agency documents, media organizations from around the world called on officials to uphold Britain’s commitment to freedom of the press.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a dozen United States media organizations, including The New York Times, wrote a letter (PDF) expressing “our grave concern over pointed calls by those in authority for censorship of The Guardian and criminal prosecution of its journalists in the name of national security.”

The former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, who along with Bob Woodward covered the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, also sent an open letter to Mr. Rusbridger, saying that his appearance comes at a time when “governments in Washington and London seem intent on erecting the most serious (and self-serving) barriers against legitimate news reporting - especially of excessive government secrecy - we have seen in decades.”

The Guardian provided live coverage of the hearing and Mr. Rusbridger’s appearance, as he fielded questions from the Home Affairs Select Committee about the circumstances surrounding the publication of documents that were leaked by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden.

The letter from the media organizations said “such sanctions, and the chilling impact created by even the threat to impose them, undermine the independence and integrity of the press that are essential for democracy to function.”

The letter also said:

To the rest of the world, it appears that press freedom itself is under attack in Britain today. British politicians are publicly calling for the criminal prosecution of The Guardian for having published true, accurate and newsworthy information. A Scotland Yard investigation has been launched. “D notices” have been threatened. And the prime minister has raised the prospect of seeking an injunction prohibiting The Guardian from publishing any further intelligence revelations. These aggressive actions intimidate journalists and their sources. They chill reporting on issues of national security and on the conduct of government more generally.