THE NUJ has voiced its concerns at the erosion of civil liberties and attacks on press freedom, in a motion to the TUC Congress next month.
It states: ‘Congress expresses grave concern at the continued erosion of civil liberties and democratic rights in Britain and declares its determination to win back traditional rights and freedoms.
‘Congress is particularly concerned about the unprecedented industrial scale of NSA and GCHQ secret data trawling and Internet surveillance of tens of millions of citizens, British among them, revealed by former US NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
‘Congress believes that the protection of privacy, beyond the necessity of providing a legal shield for whistleblowers, is of clear public interest, especially in the realm of freedom of information.
‘Congress joins privacy campaigners to demand an urgent review of the laws being used to authorise the mass collection data by GCHQ.
‘As well as breaches of civil rights already underway without parliamentary oversight, Congress is equally concerned about increasing restrictions on the right to march and demonstrate, in particular:
• Organisers of marches and demonstrations are expected to pay the local authority for a temporary road closure order before police intervene to stop traffic;
• Marches and demonstrations continue to be proscribed in the vicinity of the Westminster parliament;
• The police tactic of ‘kettling’ restricts movement of demonstrators, even preventing them peacefully leaving the area.
‘Congress should join campaigns to force an open debate about the work of the spy agencies and how they are overseen in the wake of Snowden’s revelations, and oppose and resist any attempt by government to erode our civil liberties and to shield its action in a veil of secrecy.’
The detention of David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist reporting on the mass surveillance programmes by the United States National Security Agency (NSA), is yet another chilling incident in a series of attacks on civil liberties and freedom of the press, warns the NUJ.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: ‘The shocking detention of David Miranda points to the growing abuse of so-called anti-terror laws in the UK.
‘His detention and treatment was a gross misuse of the law and clearly linked to the work of his partner Glenn Greenwald, who revealed the extent of mass surveillance and wholesale interception of internet traffic by the US security services and its collusion with GCQH.
‘Miranda had been used as a go-between by Greenwald and film-maker Laura Poitras, in Berlin, who had been working with him on the information supplied by Edward Snowden.
‘This material has now been confiscated. Journalists no longer feel safe exchanging even encrypted messages by email and now it seems they are not safe when they resort to face-to-face meetings.
‘This is not an isolated problem. The NUJ believes that journalists are coming under more scrutiny and surveillance, being stopped at borders and their work interfered with, simply for doing their job.
‘We are currently collating examples of such unacceptable interference across our membership. The treatment meted out to David Miranda is wholly unacceptable and it is time the use, or rather misuse, of terrorism legislation as a way of targeting individuals was properly and independently reviewed.’