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U.K. Court of Appeal rules David Miranda's detention was lawful

David Miranda looks on as Glenn Greenwald testifies in front of the Brazilian Federal Senate's Parliamentary Inquiry Committee, established to investigate allegations of spying by United States on Brazil, in Brasilia, 9 October 2013.
David Miranda looks on as Glenn Greenwald testifies in front of the Brazilian Federal Senate's Parliamentary Inquiry Committee, established to investigate allegations of spying by United States on Brazil, in Brasilia, 9 October 2013.

REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has joined its UK affiliate, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), in condemning today's [19 February 2014] judgement by the UK Court of Appeal that it was lawful for police to seize material from David Miranda at Heathrow airport last August.

Miranda, the spouse of then Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, was carrying encrypted material based on information supplied by Edward Snowden, who had revealed worldwide spying by the United States National Security Agency, with the co-operation of Britain's GCHQ, on millions of emails and phone calls.

According to reports, judges in the case accepted that Miranda's detention and the seizure of computer material was "an indirect interference with press freedom" but said this was justified by legitimate and "very pressing" interests of national security.

"Today's ruling is a direct attack on press freedom and the right of journalists to protect their sources," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "It is extremely worrying that laws designed to fight terrorism and protect national security can be used to take action against those who are producing articles that are in the public interest."

"We are very concerned that this ruling will now set a precedent that will undermine the right to freedom of expression and could endanger the lives of journalists."

The IFJ was part of a coalition of media and free speech organisations which challenged the use of counter-terrorism powers to detain David Miranda at Heathrow airport. The coalition included the National Union of Journalists (UK and Ireland), Mirror group and Independent newspapers, Index on Censorship, the Media Law Resource Centre, Liberty and PEN.

Following the court's decision, the IFJ has joined the NUJ in a renewed call for an urgent public inquiry into the use of anti-terrorism legislation as a 'battering ram' against press freedom.

"The British court's decision is 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," continued Boumelha. "Such actions are wholly unacceptable and we reiterate our appeal for a proper and independent review of terrorism legislation by the European Commission and the European Court of Human Rights."

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