• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Stop spying: Irvine Welsh, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis among 500 writers in UN protest

British writers are among hundreds of the world's leading authors who have condemned the scale of state surveillance in an open letter to the UN.

Signatories including Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and Irvine Welsh have urged the UN to create an international bill of digital rights and called on governments worldwide to support it.

The letter, published in the Guardian, is signed by more than 500 authors from 81 countries including Nobel Prize winners Gunter Grass and Orhan Pamuk.

It comes after a string of disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden about the activities of GCHQ and its US counterpart the National Security Agency (NSA).

The letter argues that people have the right to remain unobserved in their communications, after mass surveillance became "common knowledge" in recent months.

"This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes," it says.

"A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy. To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space."

Novelist McEwan, who wrote Atonement and Enduring Love, said: "The state, by its nature, always prefers security to liberty. Lately, technology has offered it means it can't resist, means of mass surveillance that Orwell would have been amazed by.

"The process is inexorable - unless it's resisted. Obviously, we need protection from terrorism, but not at any cost."

The latest documents released by Mr Snowden suggest British and US intelligence agencies mounted a concerted drive to infiltrate the world of online games players.

The NSA and GCHQ built "mass collection capabilities" for the Xbox Live console network and were also said to have been tasked with infiltrating "virtual environments" such as World Of Warcraft amid concerns they could be used by terrorists to communicate anonymously online, according to the Guardian.

It comes a day after technology firms including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook wrote to US president Barack Obama demanding sweeping changes to surveillance laws to help preserve the public's trust in the internet.

Contextual targeting label: 
Consumer electronics

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

199210