Former U.S. intelligence operative Edward Snowden's disclosures
about activities of Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping agency and its
cooperation with America's National Security Agency (NSA) have
embarrassed Prime Minister David Cameron's government which has said
they damaged national security.
Many of the leaks were published in the Guardian.
"The continual accusations and attacks on the Guardian, their
editor-in-chief and journalists by leading politicians is nothing
but harassment and intimidation," Dunja Mijatovic, representative
for media freedom at the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe (OSCE), told Reuters.
Lawmakers summoned Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, to a
high-profile hearing in parliament in December during which they
asked him whether he loved his country and whether he accepted he
had committed a terrorism offence.
He said he had never lost control of the Snowden data or leaked the
names of any spies.
Rusbridger said separately that the government had threatened legal
action against his paper unless it destroyed the classified
documents or handed them back. As a result, government officials
watched last summer as computers with material provided by Snowden
were physically pulverized.
Just last month, Cameron said he was unhappy newspapers were still
publishing sensitive information leaked by Snowden.
Cameron has threatened to act to stop publication and has accused
unnamed newspapers of assisting Britain's enemies by helping them
avoid surveillance by its intelligence services. He has named the
Guardian as printing such material.
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Responding to questions about whether there was a police
investigation into the left-leaning Guardian, a senior police
officer said in December that "some people" may have committed
terrorism offences for their handling of the Snowden data.
Mijatovic, who met the editor of the Guardian in London last month,
said she was increasingly concerned about the amount of pressure the
newspaper was coming under.
"Just the possibility of raising terrorism-related criminal charges
against journalists is problematic because it has a chilling
effect," she said. "We are talking about issues that are...matters
of public interest."
"I am not in any way challenging a government's legitimate right to
fight terrorism and other threats, but laws should never be used to
hinder the work of journalists and suppress free media and the right
to free expression".
"Journalists must be free to report on all stories. I am surprised
by the lack of solidarity by other UK media and journalists," she
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