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International group set up to monitor surveillance

13 June 2016


The International Federation of Journalists has voted for an NUJ motion to set up working group on surveillance.

The group would raise awareness and build a culture among journalists to secure their information and communications; defend journalists’ fundamental human rights against intrusive governments' surveillance programmes; attempt to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the use of intercept powers; campaign to defend every case where journalists’ ability to protect journalistic sources is attacked and challenge bulk collection of telephonic materials; and work with other professions such as lawyers, medics and social workers  to build coordinated global movement to rein in the unchecked surveillance powers that governments have misused over citizens.

The motion noted that "the widespread use of smartphones, emails and social media over the last decade has given the intelligence agencies access to private data on a scale few would have imagined possible" and it applauded the work of Edward Snowden who had "unravelled the most extensive global surveillance operation ever seen".

More than 300 delegates representing journalists unions across the world gathered in Angers, France for the 29th World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists. They marched through the city to commemorate journalists killed in the exercise of their profession and laid a white rose in front of the commemorative plaque for Camille Lepage, who was killed in 2014 in the Central African Republic. The 26-year-old journalist had been travelling near the border with Cameroon when she became caught up in fighting. The circumstances of her death remain uninvestigated.

Jim Boumelha, out-going president, said:

"The death of a journalist such as Camille is utterly painful. It is an injustice. The killing of journalists doesn't only affect journalists, media and unions. It is a concern for society as a whole."

A member of the NUJ's national executive, Jim Boumelha, stepped down as president of the IFJ after nine years (there is a three-term limit) and was elected as honorary treasurer.

Philippe Leruth, member of the Belgian Association Générale des Journalistes Professionnels de Belgique was elected as president. He was vice-president of the European Federation of Journalists and is a journalist at the daily newspaper L’Aveni.  Younes M’Jahed, of Morocco , was elected as senior vice-president.

NUJ motion

Intrusive government and surveillance powers
The World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists, meeting in Angers from June 7th – 10th 2016, noting that the widespread use of smartphones, emails and social media over the last decade has given the intelligence agencies access to private data on a scale few would have imagined possible; applauding the work of journalists in mining the massive leak of National Security Agency documents by an NSA officer-turned whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, which unravelled the most extensive global surveillance operation ever seen using the top secret prism; deploring that the spying operation had direct access to data from Apple, Google and others; its use in gathering intelligence by the UK’s GCHQ; the espionage on foreign politicians at international conferences, world leaders and embassies; as well as journalists. Between them, they allowed the agencies to harvest, store and analyse data from millions of phone calls, emails and search-engine queries; thanking the NUJ for organising a joint conference with The Guardian, one of the media  investigating the scandal, and other IFJ unions  which, for the first time, brought together journalists themselves to discuss the impact of these shock revelations on their work and the need for strong oversight of the intelligence agencies by parliament and the judiciary, neither of which exists at present; believing that the Snowden revelations had disclosed matters of genuine public interest and concern to states across the globe and the implications for journalists and the risk to our democracies are far reaching, although it has proved difficult for journalists to be in full agreement; Congress notes the setting up of an IFJ working group on surveillance and calls on the incoming Executive Committee to:

  1. raise awareness and build a culture among journalists to be secure with their information and communications. Encryption and countless tools, often available for free online, must be used by journalists to protect their own work-in-progress and their communications with sensitive sources;
  2. defend journalists’ fundamental human rights at a time where many of the laws that underpin citizens’ rights, as well as protect journalists, are being chipped away at by governments. In many countries, the government’s surveillance programmes have infiltrated most of the communications technologies we have come to rely on;
  3. mobilise IFJ affiliates to get organised to begin dismantling the veil of secrecy around the use of intercept powers to get access to journalistic material and put pressure on the authorities to explain how and why they’re being surveilled;
  4. seek to translate the huge outcry into a momentum for change that would stop the indiscriminate collection of information and bring back surveillance policies under democratic control;
  5. reach out to lawyers, barristers, the medical profession, social workers, accountants and all other professions that rely on professional confidentiality, in order to build a strong and coordinated global movement to rein in the unchecked surveillance powers that  governments have misused over citizens.

Tags: , international, surveillance, journalists killed, edward snowden, ifj congress, ifj, investigatory powers bill, democracy