RSF calls for journalists protection against BND surveillance

In the run-up to the adoption of a new law on the foreign surveillance activities of the German foreign intelligence service (BND), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is launching a campaign #NotYourSource to call for an end of foreign journalists’ surveillance.

With its "Not Your Source" campaign starting on February 8th, RSF is asking for a more effective protection for foreign media workers and their sources against intelligence agencies’ surveillance. RSF calls on anyone who supports this cause to join the campaign and call on members of the German Bundestag via social media or email to revise the draft act accordingly.

As a result of the successful constitutional complaint brought by RSF and the Civil Rights Society (GFF), the parliament has been instructed to create a new legal basis for the intelligence service's work, including tougher measures to protect confidential communications from state surveillance. The Bundestag's Committee on Internal Affairs is likely to reach a decision on the proposed legislation as early as this March. In RSF's view, the new draft of the BND Act still leaves media workers and their sources vulnerable to surveillance.

"Journalists must no longer be used by intelligence services as involuntary sources of information because of their political interest," RSF Germany's Executive Director Christian Mihr said. "The judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court has clearly shown how intelligence work can be carried out effectively without systematically violating press freedom and fundamental rights. The new BND Act must create safeguards and oversight mechanisms that are proportionate to the vast capabilities of digital surveillance. With an appropriate law, Germany could set an international precedent for human rights instead of heading towards another constitutional complaint with a superficial reform."

RSF recently voiced strong criticism against the federal government's draft act. Although it establishes formal requirements for the protection of confidential communications, it also undermines it by implementing inadequate measures for their application and oversight. This draft does not shake the foundations of modern mass surveillance, as exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013. Through the unrestricted analysis of traffic data, the BND would likely be able to continue to gather information on media workers’ contact networks and interests on a massive scale, and pass it on to other intelligence agencies with no regard for the dangers this entails for media workers in repressive states.

Germany is ranked 11th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index

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Updated on 08.02.2021