Union hails successful legal challenge to UK surveillance laws
21 December 2016
The NUJ has welcomed the decision of the European court of justice (ECJ) that general and indiscriminate retention of email and electronic communications by the UK government is illegal. The union called on the prime minister Theresa May to implement the legal ruling rather than further waste tax payers money going to an appeal.
The NUJ has fought against indiscriminate and wide-ranging surveillance of citizens and journalists following the revelations that the state has spied on journalists and targeted journalistic communications and sources. The union has worked in collaboration with the media industry and with human rights experts and privacy campaigners to highlight the dangers contained within the central tenets of the UK Investigatory Powers Act, the so-called snooper’s charter.
The government drove through this legislation earlier this year and had no regard for legitimate concerns about secret state surveillance powers including examples of past abuses that have taken place. The government swept aside proposals for further safeguards to be included in the bill and has consistently disregarded the immense and detrimental impact of investigatory powers on our own civil liberties and press freedom in Britain as well as the ramifications for the rest of the world.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
"This is a significant decision by the European court of justice and should trigger a rethink by government. It is a message to the world that European legal experts have looked at the evidence and decided that they share our concerns about the lack of tight definitions within UK law, at the same time highlighting the lack of legitimate justification for arbitrary, secret state surveillance.
"As things stand, the government and the authorities including the police, home office, department of health and even the food standards agency, can all have access to grab our personal information without our consent. This is a horrendous situation and it sends all the wrong signals to repressive regimes around the world. The impact on journalists and democracy are profound.
"This decision should prompt a new public debate about how technology is implicated in our most intimate lives and we have to return to the question of what is the acceptable limit to which the British state can have access to all electronic information linked to our daily lives."
The court has ruled that targeted surveillance should only be used if it is necessary to tackle serious crimes and the result is in response to a legal case mounted by British members of parliament David Davis and Tom Watson and supported by Liberty, the Law Society, the Open Rights Group and Privacy International.