Council of Europe sends open letter to BritainSource: Tanjug
STRASBOURG -- The Council of Europe (CoE) has expressed its concern over the decision of the British authorities to destroy computer equipment belonging to the Guardian.
The hard drives were destroyed by the newspaper in the presence of members of a British intelligence agency, and contained the data given to the paper by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The pan-European rights watchdog brought into question the legality of the procedures, bearing in mind the international conventions that Britain had signed, and sought answers from that country, saying that its reaction to the exposure of the United States’ vast surveillance program could have "chilling effects".
“These measures, if confirmed, may have a potentially chilling effect on journalists’ freedom of expression as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights,” Secretary General Thorbjoern Jagland said in an open letter to British Home Secretary Theresa May.
Britain’s Home Office declined to comment late on Wednesday.
The Associated Press noted in its report that the language used in the CoE letter was "usually reserved for authoritarian holdouts in Eastern Europe or the Caucuses."
Council spokesman Daniel Holtgen said the words “chilling effect” had previously been used in reference to situations in Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Holtgen posed a rhetorical question: What would have happened had a journalist’s partner been detained in Moscow, or if a Russian newspaper had had its hard drives smashed?
“You would have the Western press all over Russia,” he said, and added:
“We need to apply the same standards to Western countries - including founding members of the Council of Europe, such as France, the U.K., or Germany. Is not an explicit, harsh criticism, but it is a reminder that we are following this.”