Amnesty International has said the pressure exerted on the Guardian by UK authorities to destroy hard drives containing material from the NSAwhistleblower Edward Snowden is a threat to freedom of expression, and marks a “sinister turn of events”.
The Guardian editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, wrote on Monday thattwo GCHQ security experts visited the Guardian on 20 July and oversaw the destruction of hard drives containing copies of information provided to the newspaper by the whistleblower. Rusbridger wrote that the destruction of the hard drives followed meetings with a “senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister” who had demanded the destruction or return of the material.
Tawanda Hondora, the deputy director of law and policy at Amnesty International, said: “Insisting that the Guardian destroy information received from a whistleblower is a sinister turn of events.
“This is an example of the government trying to undermine press freedoms. It also seriously undermines the right of the public to know what governments do with their personal and private information. If confirmed, these actions expose the UK’s hypocrisy as it pushes for freedom of expression overseas.”
Amnesty has called for the UK government to “explain its actions and publicly affirm its commitment to the rule of law, freedom of expression and the independence of media”. It has also called for an inquiry into who ordered the action.