August 7, 2013 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Council of Europe: regulating surveillance and protecting whistleblowers

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) supports the motion for a resolution regulating surveillance programmes and protecting whistleblowers that was tabled on 31 July by 23 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe representing more than 10 countries and all political groups.
Читать по-русски / Read in Russian Tabled on the initiative of Pieter Omtzigt of the Group of the European People's Party, the proposed resolution would call on member states to regulate and control surveillance and to pass legislative provisions at the national level to protect whistleblowers. The aim of the motion is to start an investigation under the authority of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which has in the past demonstrated its ability to investigate important matters by shedding light on the CIA’s secret rendition flights and detention centres. The Committee would investigate the personal data sharing practices of the Council of Europe’s 47 members, which include France, Russia, Turkey and the United Kingdom. On the basis of the committee’s report, the proposed resolution could then be amended and eventually adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly. Revelations about PRISM in the United States and the massive electronic surveillance practiced by the British agency known as GCHQ has placed surveillance practices at the heart of human rights defenders’ concerns. On 29 July, Reporters Without Borders became one of the many NGOs and civil society groups to sign the “International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance,” which urge national and international bodies to take up the issue and propose guidelines for regulating surveillance. In a June 2013 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, highlighted the negative impact of surveillance on civil liberties, including the right to inform and be informed, freedom of expression and respect for privacy. According to a comparative survey of 10 European countries by Transparency International in 2009, many Council of Europe members have lagged far behind the more progressive legislation adopted in some countries, such as the UK’s 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act. The proposed resolution submitted on 31 July builds on Recommendation 1916 of 2010 and Resolution 1729 of 2010 on protecting whistleblowers. If adopted, it would emphasize the need to protect whistleblowers even when their revelations concern national security provisions including mass surveillance. It would also serve as a reminder of the obligation to protect human rights and democratic imperatives in general.