Guardian editor appears before House of Commons Tuesday

The Guardian | The Washington Post

Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger is due to testify at a counterterrorism session before the House of Commons at 10 a.m. ET Tuesday. The session, which you can watch live, will examine the newspaper’s decision to publish NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

The Guardian’s Paul Owen is blogging throughout the day, and offers several links to catch up to the story so far.

On Tuesday, The Guardian published an open letter to Rusbridger from Carl Bernstein.

You are being called to testify at a moment when governments in Washington and London seem intent on erecting the most serious (and self-serving) barriers against legitimate news reporting – especially of excessive government secrecy – we have seen in decades.

The stories published by The Guardian, the Washington Post and the New York Times based on Mr Snowden’s information to date hardly seem to represent reckless disclosure of specific national security secrets of value to terrorists or enemy governments or in such a manner as to make possible the identification of undercover agents or operatives whose lives or livelihoods would be endangered by such disclosure. Such information has been carefully redacted by the Guardian and other publications and withheld from stories based on information from Mr Snowden. Certainly terrorists are already aware that they are under extensive surveillance, and did not need Mr Snowden or the Guardian to tell them that.

On Monday, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 12 other American newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post and the Associated Press, wrote a similar letter to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, calling on Parliament to “use the occasion of Mr. Rusbridger’s appearance to reaffirm Britain’s commitment to a vigorous, free, and independent press.”

It is important to acknowledge that the Snowden revelations, filtered to the public through responsible journalists, have served the public interest. And it is equally important to respect the autonomy of the newsroom. Damage to democracy and to the credibility of elected governments inevitably is inflicted when disapproval of truthful reporting causes officials to intrude into the internal editorial decisions of news organizations.

In August, Rusbridger wrote about the government officials overseeing destruction of Guardian harddrives.

“Whitehall was satisfied,” he wrote, “but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age.”

On Nov. 30, Anthony Faiola wrote in The Washington Post about what’s at stake for The Guardian and the press in the U.K.

The pressures coming to bear on the Guardian, observers say, are testing the limits of press freedoms in one of the world’s most open societies. Although Britain is famously home to a fierce pack of news media outlets — including the tabloid hounds of old Fleet Street — it also has no enshrined constitutional right to free speech.

And 0n Tuesday, hours before testifying before the House of Commons, Rusbridger tweeted a paraphrased line from Bernstein’s letter.

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