In light of today’s denial of a judicial review application for David Miranda, partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald who published documents leaked by Edward Snowden, PEN American Center echoes the concerns of English PEN and a host of other human rights advocates about the erosion of fundamental rights and media freedoms in the UK.

LONDON— English PEN, Article 19, and Media Legal Defence Initiative are disappointed at the dismissal of David Miranda’s application for judicial review.

As organisations that work to defend the right to freedom of expression in the UK and around the world, we intervened in the case as third parties since we believed that the detention of David Miranda under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act and the retention of his property, including sensitive journalistic materials, was a disproportionate interference with his right to freedom of expression.

Miranda was assisting his partner Glenn Greenwald in his reporting for The Guardian on the revelations regarding the NSA’s and GCHQ’s surveillance programmes, a continuing story of national and international importance that is clearly in the public interest. The stopping of an individual assisting the reporting of the story, and the seizure of their materials, has profound implications for press freedom in the United Kingdom. Miranda had traveled to Berlin to meet US film-maker Laura Poitras, who has been also working with Greenwald and the paper. While in transit at Heathrow International Airport en route from Berlin to the couple’s home in Brazil, he was halted by police and questioned for almost nine hours under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act.

While the court recognises the substantial importance of the issues raised by the case, the judgment will expose any journalist covering a story on national security who passes through a port in the UK to being detained under Schedule 7 and having their sources or material seized. It therefore threatens to undermine protections for journalists that are recognised in international law and may deter future sources from providing information to the media in the public interest.

We are equally disappointed with the statements of the court regarding the role of journalists in a liberal democracy. In particular, the judgment questions the media’s authority to decide on publishing material relating to national security, stating that this is a constitutional role reserved for governments. We believe that this would limit journalists’ ability to cover stories of the greatest national importance and public interest.

“The Snowden leaks are one of the most important public interest stories of recent years. The court’s dismissal of the case may discourage both whistleblowers and journalists from covering similar news stories in the future, and undermines the media’s essential role as a watchdog in our democracy,” said Jo Glanville, director of English PEN.


For more information, contact Jo Glanville at English PEN: 0771 301 0971.