Intrusive government and surveillance powers

Proposed by the National Union of Journalists, UK and Ireland (NUJ)

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 whistleblower, 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 of about 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. build campaigns and take concrete action to defend every case where journalists’ ability to protect journalistic sources is attacked or where journalists are spied on. The courts should be used to ensure that governments’ surveillance policies are consistent with national and international laws;
  5. 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;
  6. 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.

Carried unanimously