Index on Censorship sent the following letter to Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of the Republic of Lithuania, and Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council:
I am writing to you on behalf of 40 non-governmental organizations (listed below) and nearly 7000 individuals who have joined an online petition initiated by Index on Censorship calling on Europe's leaders to place the issue of surveillance on the agenda for the European Council Summit in October.
It has been reported that the US and some European governments indiscriminately monitor emails, telephone conversations and websites that individuals visit. As the signatories of the petition, we believe that such mass surveillance of online communications is a violation of the right to freedom of expression and privacy.
We have noted that the European Council will be meeting on 24 and 25 October to discuss a number of important issues that the European Union is facing. Among them are discussions about digital economy, innovation and services; growth, competitiveness and jobs as well as the economic and monetary union. According to the agenda, the European Council Summit “may also address specific external relations issues in the light of developments on the international scene”.
We believe that the nature of the revelations by The Guardian and other media outlets as well as the subsequent media reports on the issue make it important that the European Council Summit discusses the issue of mass surveillance programmes. The allegations of mass surveillance are very much in the public interest and as such necessitate a transparent discussion at the EU level.
Mass surveillance violates the fundamental rights that the European Union is built on, such as the right to privacy and freedom of expression.
The right to privacy is enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and in Article 7 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (EU Charter). Similarly freedom of expression is protected by Article 10 and 11 of the ECHR and the EU Charter respectively. The obligation to respect, protect, fulfil and promote those rights is legally binding on all EU Member States and, since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, on the EU institutions.
We would be grateful if you could use your authority to put the issue of mass surveillance on the agenda of the forthcoming European Council Summit (24-25 October 2013).
Director of Campaigns and Policy
Index on Censorship
On behalf of:
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Centre for Independent Journalism - Malaysia
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
International Federation of Journalists
National Union of Somali Journalists
Reporters Without Borders
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media
Open Rights Group
European Federation of Journalists
PEN Emergency Fund
Belarusian Human Rights House
International Partnership for Human Rights
Russian PEN Centre
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Foundation for the Development of Democratic Initiatives - Poland
Alliance of Independent Journalists - Indonesia
Fundacja Panoptykon - Poland
International Media Support
Human Rights Monitoring Institute - Lithuania
Warsaw Branch, Association of Polish Journalists (SDP)
The Steering Committee of the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership
The South African Centre of PEN International
Estonian Human Rights Centre
Vikes Foundation, Finland
Public Concern at Work, UK
Center for Democracy & Technology