Advocacy letter

Joint Letter to Open Government Partnership to express concern about allegations of state surveillance

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27 Nov 2013


ARTICLE 19 has joined with other civil society organisations to write to the Chairs of the Open Government Partnership to express our grave concern about allegations of state surveillance practices.

The Open Government Partnership is an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens.

ARTICLE 19 has joined this collective initiative in order reiterate our serious concern that governments around the world have been routinely intercepting and retaining the private communications of entire populations, in secret, without particularised warrants and with little or no meaningful oversight.


19 November 2013


To the Co-Chairs of the Open Government Partnership:

Mr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto

Mr. Julián Alfonso Olivas Ugalde

Mr. Rakesh Rajani


Statement of Concern on Disproportionate Surveillance

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, affirm our deep commitment to the goals of the Open Government Partnership, which in its declaration endorsed “more transparent, accountable, responsive and effective government,” founded on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We join other civil society organisations, human rights groups, academics and ordinary citizens in expressing our grave concern over allegations that governments around the world, including many OGP members, have been routinely intercepting and retaining the private communications of entire populations, in secret, without particularised warrants and with little or no meaningful oversight. Such practices allegedly include the routine exchange of “foreign” surveillance data, bypassing domestic laws that restrict governments’ ability to spy on their own citizens.

These practices erode the checks and balances on which accountability depends, and have a deeply chilling effect on freedom of expression, information and association, without which the ideals of open government have no meaning.

As Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, recently said at the United Nations, “In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy.”

Activities that restrict the right to privacy, including communications surveillance, can only be justified when they are prescribed by law, are necessary to achieve a legitimate aim, and are proportionate to the aim pursued. Without firm legislative and judicial checks on the surveillance powers of the executive branch, and robust protections for the media and public interest whistleblowers, as outlined in the Tshwane Principles abuses can and will occur.

We call on all governments, and specifically OGP members, to:

  • Recognise the need to update understandings of existing privacy and human rights law to reflect modern surveillance technologies and techniques;
  • commit in their OGP Action Plans to complete by October 2014 a review of national laws, with the aim of defining reforms needed to regulate necessary, legitimate and proportional State involvement in communications surveillance; to guarantee freedom of the press; and to protect whistleblowers who lawfully reveal abuses of state power;
  • commit in their OGP Action Plans to transparency on the mechanisms for surveillance, on exports of surveillance technologies, aid directed towards implementation of surveillance technologies, and agreements to share citizen data among states.


International and regional organisations

  1. ACCESS Info Europe
  2. Africa Freedom of Information Centre
  3. Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información
  4. ARTICLE 19, Global Campaign for Free Expression
  5. Centre for Law and Democracy
  6. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  7. CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  8. Global Integrity
  9. Global Network Initiative
  10. HIVOS
  11. Oxfam International
  12. Privacy International
  13. World Wide Web Foundation

National organisations

  1. Acción Ciudadana, Guatemala
  2. ActiveCitizen, Ireland
  3. Africa Center for Open Governance, Kenya
  4. Aktion Freiheit statt Angst e.V. (Freedom Not Fear), Germany
  5. Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa, South Africa
  6. Association EPAS, Romania
  7. Asociación para una Sociedad Más Justa, Honduras
  8. Bolo Bhi, Paikstan
  9. Center for Effective Government, USA
  10. Center for Independent Journalism, Romania
  11. Center for Peace Studies, Croatia
  12. Center for Public Interest Advocacy, Bosnia Herzegovina
  13. Centro Internacional para Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos, Guatemala
  14. Centro for Public Integrity, Mozambique
  15. Centrum Cyfrowe Projekt, Poland
  16. Charity & Security Network, USA
  17. Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Nigeria
  18. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), USA
  19. Corruption Watch, UK
  20. Defending Dissent Foundation, USA
  21. Democracy Watch, Canada
  22. Digital Courage, Germany
  23. Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan
  24. Diritto Di Sapere, Italy
  25. e-Governance Academy, Estonia
  26. East European Development Institute, Poland
  27. Economic Research Center, Azerbaijan
  28. Federal Accountability Initiative For Reform, Canada
  29. Freedom of Information Center, Armenia
  30. Freedom of Information Forum, Austria (FOIAustria)
  31. Freedom of Information Foundation, Russia
  32. Fundar, Center for Research and Analysis, Mexico
  33. GESOC, Mexico
  34. Global Human Rights Communications, India
  35., Switzerland
  36. GONG, Croatia
  37. Hong Kong In-Media, Hong Kong
  38. Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
  39. Independent Journalism Center, Moldova
  40. INESC, Brazil
  41. Initiative für Netzfreiheit, Austria
  42. Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, Georgia
  43. Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad A.C., Mexico
  44. International Records Management Trust, UK
  45. Integrity Action, UK
  46. IT for Change, India
  47. Iuridicum Remedium, Czech Republic
  48. Media Rights Agenda, Nigeria
  49. Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (Association for the Empowerment of Workers and Peasants), India
  50. NATO Watch, UK
  51. Obong Denis Udo-Inyang Foundation, Nigeria
  52. OneWorld – Platform for Southeast Europe (OWPSEE), Europe
  53., UK
  54. Open Democracy Advice Centre, South Africa
  55. Open Australia Foundation
  56. Open Government Institute, Moldova
  57. Open the, USA
  58. Open Knowledge Foundation, UK
  59. Open Knowledge Foundation Ireland
  60. Open Rights Group, UK
  61. Paradigm Initiative, Nigeria
  62. Paraguayan Association of Information Technology Law, Paraguay
  63. Philippines Internet Freedom Alliance
  64. Privacy and Access Council of Canada — Conseil du Canada de l’Accès et la vie Privée
  65. PRO Media, Macedonia
  67. Project On Government Oversight, USA
  68. Public Concern at Work, UK
  69. Public Virtue Institute, Indonesia
  70. Publish What You Pay Indonesia
  71. Request Initiative, UK
  72. Sahkar Social Welfare Association, Pakistan
  73. Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), University of Ottawa
  74. Shaaub for Democracy Culture Foundation, Iraq
  75. Social Research and Development Center, Yemen
  76. Soros Foundation Romania, Romania
  77. TEDIC, Paraguay
  78. Transparencia por Colombia
  79. Transparency International Armenia
  80. Transparency International Bosnia and Herzegovina
  81. Transparency International Indonesia
  82. Transparency International Ireland
  83. Transparency International Macedonia
  84. Transparency International Mongolia
  85. Transparency International Switzerland
  86. Unwanted Witness, Uganda
  87. Water Governance Institute (WGI), Uganda
  88. Whistleblowers Network, Germany
  89. Youth Advocate Program International, Inc, USA
  90. Zenu Network, Cameroon 



  1. Aruna Roy, Founder, MKSS India and member of India’s National Advisory Council
  2. Tim Berners-Lee
  3. Vinod Rai, Former Comptroller and Auditor General, India
  4. Rebecca MacKinnon
  5. Satbir Singh, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and Co-Chair, South Asian Right to Information Advocates Network
  6. David Eaves
  7. Dissanayake Dasanayaka
  8. Dwight E. Hines, Ph.D
  9. Ernesto Bellisario
  10. Nikhil Dey
  11. Petru Botnaru
  12. Shankar Singh
  13. Sowmya Kidambi
  14. TH Schee
  15. Jacques Le Roux
  16. Andrei Sambra
  17. Christophe Dupriez
  18. Sanjana Hattotuwa
  19. Morgan Marquis-Boire
  20. Bouziane Zaid
  21. Pehr Mårtens
  22. Matthew Landauer
  23. Simon Ontoyin
  24. Yinglee Tseng
  25. Sonigitu Ekpe
  26. Frank van Harmelen
  27. Phil Coates
  28. Josefina Aguilar
  29. Juned Sonido
  30. Fatima Cambronero
  31. Jonathan Hipkiss
  32. Lucie Perrault
  33. Bouziane Zaid
  34. Per Martens
  35. Simon Ontoyin
  36. Morgan Marquis-Boire
  37. Leila Nachawati
  38. Gbenga Sesan
  39. Mohamed ElGohary
  40. D.M.Dissanayake
  41. Sana Saleem
  42. Renata Avila Pinto
  43. Carolina Rossini
  44. Phil Longhurst
  45. Mark Townsend
  46. Badouin Schombe
  47. Sarah Copeland
  48. Jelena Heštera
  49. Brian Leekley
  50. Katrin Verclas
  51. Ian David
  52. Judyth Mermelstein
  53. Anna Myers
  54. Knut Gotfredsen
  55. Daniele Pitrolo
  56. Nick Herbert
  57. Eliana Quiroz
  58. Ion Ghergheata
  59. Mark Hughes
  60. Elena Tudor
  61. Thomas C. Ellington
  62. Susan Ariel Aaronson, Ph.D.
  63. Peter Gunther
  64. Mark Charles Rosenzweig
  65. Panthea Lee
  66. Douglas Redding
  67. Mark Wilhelmi
  68. C. Worth
  69. Sriram Sharma
  70. Ben Huser
  71. Zach Ross
  72. Albo P Fossa
  73. Ian Tolfrey
  74. Jay Campbell
  75. Beth Alexander
  76. Crisman Richards
  77. Jorge Luis Sierra
  78. Linda Strasberg
  79. Mawaki Chango, Ph.D.
  80. Giang Dang
  81. Nica Dumlau
  82. Walter Keim
  83. Tur-Od Lkhagvajav
  84. Dr. Mridula Ghosh
  85. Anthony Barnett