UN rights experts warn UK on press intimidation

[JURIST] Two independent UN human rights experts on Wednesday stressed [press release] the UK's obligation to ensure that investigative journalists are allowed protection from intimidation and punishment. Wednesday's statement comes as a reaction to the recent detention [NYT article] of David Miranda, partner of The Guardian [official website] journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has broken several stories regarding governmental surveillance activities. Along with Miranda's arrest at the Heathrow Airport in London, British officials reportedly destroyed The Guardian's computer hard drives. Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, [official website] put the concerns of press freedom before those of national security secrets, stating that "[t]he press plays a central role in the clarification of human rights abuses." Therefore, says La Rue, "The protection of national security secrets must never be used as an excuse to intimidate the press into silence and backing off from its crucial work in the clarification of human rights violations." The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, [official website] Ben Emmerson, then urged that a debate take place to officially determine what official access of data should be available to the public.

Protection of free expression remains a key concern for international human rights advocates. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) [advocacy website] in July 2012 called upon President Mohamed Waheed Hassan [official profile] to ensure press freedom [JURIST report] in the Maldives. Earlier that month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] urged the government of Sri Lanka to end arrests and office raids of journalists [JURIST report] who publish content critical of the government. In June two reports were presented to the UN Human Rights Council urging greater protection for the right to life of journalists [JURIST report] and media freedom. The CPJ in February released its annual Attacks on the Press report [JURIST report], expressing concern about increased censorship of journalists worldwide in 2011. The CPJ criticized the growing trend of government censorship, especially Internet censorship. Last May, journalism rights group Reporters without Borders (RSF) [official website] released [JURIST report] its annual list of predators of press freedom, which included the heads of state of several countries in the Middle East and North Africa. In April 2011 the US Department of State (DOS) [official website]released [JURIST report] its 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, listing many of the same offenders of free press as the RSF report.

 

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