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Top Editors Call Out UK Govt: 'Detention of Miranda Undermines Free Press'

Sharply worded open letter from the heads of leading European papers echoes mass outrage at abuse of anti-terrorism laws to intimidate journalists

Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Editors of Europe's top newspapers wrote a joint open letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron slamming the detention and investigation of David Miranda—partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald who exposed secret surveillance programs of the US and UK governments—as a blow against open debate and democracy that "has ramifications far beyond the borders of the UK, undermining the position of the free press throughout the world."

"We are surprised by the recent acts by officials of your government against our colleagues at the Guardian and deeply concerned that a stout defender of democracy and free debate such as the United Kingdom uses antiterror legislation in order to legalise what amounts to harassment of both the paper and individuals associated with it," the editors of Denmark's Politiken, Sweden's Dagens Nyheter, Norway's Aftenposten, and Finland's Helsingin Sanomat wrote in an open letter that appeared in the Guardian's Observer Saturday.

"Moreover, it is deeply disturbing that the police have now announced a criminal investigation. We hope this is not to be seen as a step against journalists doing journalism," they declared.

Miranda, a Brazilian citizen, was detained for 9 hours last Sunday as he passed through London's Heathrow Airport on his way home from a visit with film-maker Laura Poitras, who helped break the spying revelations stories. The police invoked the UK's Schedule 7, part of the country's Terrorism Act 2000, to hold Miranda.

The incident, in which Miranda says he was subject to "frightening, stressful and intimidating" interrogation and threats of imprisonment, has sparked global outrage over the UK's abuse of so-called anti-terrorism laws to intimidate journalists and shut down debate.

Miranda publicly spoke out about the incident and filed a lawsuit against the police, resulting in his limited court victory last week, in which the High Court issued a ruling Thursday that prohibits the government and police from "inspecting, copying or sharing" the data that was forcefully taken from him while he was passing through Heathrow airport on Sunday, except for where it is used to 'protect' national security and/or determine whether the claimant is connected with terrorism.

Miranda apparently is not the only person who has been detained and interrogated unjustly by UK anti-terrorism laws. Independent Police Complaints Commission, a watchdog group, told the Guardian that it is investigating 18 cases of unlawful use of Schedule 7 laws by metropolitan police to detain passengers for 9 hours with no reasonable cause. After the police department's repeated refusal to participate in the investigations, in the IPCC is threatening legal action.


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