Specifically, Jagland wants to know how the convention squares away with the detention of a Guardian reporter’s partner David Miranda at Heathrow airport and the forced destruction of the paper’s hard-drives containing Snowden’s leaked documents. “These measures, if confirmed, may have a potentially chilling effect on journalists’ freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights [ECHR],” said Jagland.
“I would therefore be grateful to you if you could provide information on these reports and comment on the compatibility of the measures taken with the UK’s obligations under the convention,” he added. Miranda, who is partnered to Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, was in transit from Germany to Brazil at London’s Heathrow airport on Sunday where he was detained for nine hours by the Metropolitan Police.
All his electronic equipment was confiscated. He was also forced to reveal passwords under the threat of jail. An obscure British terrorism act was invoked to detain Miranda, which strips away the normal rights of suspects and journalists caught in transit at the airport. The paper in July had also been forced to wipe clean hard drives after Downing Street sent its cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood to warn the Guardian over Snowden’s documents.
The US on Tuesday distanced itself from UK over the destruction of the hard drives. Washington said it would not engage in a similar move, even to protect national security, despite imposing a 35-year sentence on US army soldier Bradley Manning for leaking thousands of government documents to the online publisher Wikileaks.
A stronger worded reaction on Wednesday came from Moscow. Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, said in a statement: “The moves taken by the UK authorities in relation with the Guardian newspaper office are discordant with the statements of the British side on their adherence to universal human rights standards, including that of the freedom of media, the rights of journalists and the protection of private life.”
He described Britain’s action as part of a “worrisome ongoing tendency for the abuse of fundamental human rights and freedoms”. For its part, the EU says it cannot comment on the application of national security legislation.