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Protection needed for U.S. surveillance whistleblower

Photos of Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), and U.S. President Barack Obama on the front pages of local English and Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong
Photos of Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), and U.S. President Barack Obama on the front pages of local English and Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong

REUTERS/Bobby Yip

ARTICLE 19 calls for Edward Snowden to be granted legal protection against prosecution for his disclosure about the mass surveillance programme, Prism.

Edward Snowden is a whistleblower who has revealed how national and international protection for online and telecommunications privacy has been seriously undermined by secret processes in the name of defending national security. His revelation is clearly in the public interest.

Under international law, whistle-blowers that expose illegal activity or the violation of human rights – even those who reveal classified information - in the public interest are protected from reprisals, including prosecution.

“The scale of surveillance that has been revealed is unprecedented. There is little doubt that this is a disclosure that is in the public interest and that Snowden is therefore clearly a whistle-blower, who deserves and must receive protection under international law” said Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

ARTICLE urges the United States and other authorities against prosecuting Snowden.

ARTICLE 19 calls for a public inquiry into the Prism programme and urges legal reform to ensure that there is adequate oversight for communications surveillance.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned that the Prism programme will have a serious chilling effect on freedom of expression online. The release of information has started a long-overdue debate in the US and overseas about the activities of intelligence agencies and the adequacy of oversight bodies.

ARTICLE 19 notes that the authorities should not take action against journalists who have published the material disclosed by Snowden. Under international law, it is well recognised that journalists are not responsible for maintaining the secrets of public bodies.

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