Originally posted 10 October 2013 on the Guardian website
Editors around the world expressed their support of the journalistic work that has gone into the publications of NSA and GCHQ mass surveillance programs, following a flurry of UK media headlines including accusations that the Guardian paper was aiding terrorists.
On 9 October 2013 the Telegraph published an article with the extraordinary title, ‘GCHQ leaks have “gifted” terrorists ability to attack “at will”, warns spy chief’. The article quoted extensively from a speech given by the UK’s new MI5 Director-General Andrew Parker and emphasised that leaks of GCHQ classified information had given terrorists a significant advantage. The following day, the Daily Mail published a comment accusing the Guardian of being a paper that helps Britain’s enemies and causes real damage by leaking information about GCHQ to the public.
The Guardian published responses to the Daily Mail article from editors worldwide. Respondents included editors, editors-in-chief, directors and publishers from the following media outlets: the New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, The Hindu, Haaretz, Clarín, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, El País, La Repubblica, the Slate Group, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Washington Post, Aftenposten, Washington Post Company, Politiken, Gazeta Wyborcza, Tagesspiegel, Nue Zürcher Zeitung, Dagens Nyheter, Crikey, The Conversation, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Fairfax Media, Der Standard, ORF-TV, Buzzfeed and the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship.
Interestingly, the flood of responses from news editors stimulated some introspection on the role that journalism plays in an open, democratic society. Most of the editors felt strongly that it is a journalistic responsibility to disclose information in the public interest. As Javier Moreno, director of El País, put it: “The press must serve the citizens and comply with their right to have access to truthful and relevant informations when it comes to public affairs.”
A significant portion of the revelations coming from Edward Snowden concern mass surveillance of diplomats, international payment systems and other industrial and private companies. Those revelations have shown that the NSA has targeted the Brazilian and Mexican presidents, the SWIFT network for international financial transactions, EU and UN embassies and G20 delegates. As The Hindu editor Siddharth Varadarajan said: “Those attacking the media on the NSA issue wilfully ignore the fact that what the Guardian, the New York Times, The Hindu and other newspapers around the world have published so far are details of snooping that is not even remotely related to fighting terrorism.”