Press release

Protection needed for Prism whistleblower Edward Snowden

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ARTICLE 19

10 Jun 2013

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ARTICLE 19 condemns the calls for prosecution and extradition of Edward Snowden 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 human rights standards, whistle-blowers that expose wrongdoing by public or private bodies should benefit from full legal protection, as long as they have acted in good faith and with the reasonable belief that the information they have disclosed is substantially true and is evidence of wrongdoing. Such protection should apply even when disclosure would otherwise be in breach of a legal or employment requirement.

“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 deserves and must receive protection under international law” said Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

ARTICLE urges the US authorities to drop any plan to prosecute Snowden, who must be provided with full legal protection, as well as protection of his physical safety.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the US to begin a public inquiry into the Prism system and urges legal reform to ensure that any system of communications surveillance complies fully with human rights standards and that there is adequate oversight for any such surveillence.

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.

Journalists who publish information that has been leaked by whistleblowers play a vital role in the democratic system, by promoting public interest information for the benefit of the society at large. ARTICLE 19 also 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.