World's top authors demand UN drafts bill of digital rights

People under surveillance are 'no longer free' say 500 leading authors appalled by Snowden revelations

LAST UPDATED AT 08:41 ON Tue 10 Dec 2013

FIVE Nobel winners are among 500 leading authors who have condemned the mass state surveillance revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Guardian reports.

The authors, who include Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Orhan Pamuk, Gunter Grass and Arundhati Roy, say that "spy agencies are undermining democracy and must be curbed by a new international charter". They have called on the United Nations to create an international bill of digital rights that would "enshrine the protection of civil rights in the internet age," the paper says.

Authors from 81 countries have joined the initiative. The British writes include Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Irvine Welsh, Hari Kunzru, Jeanette Winterson and Kazuo Ishiguro.

Other "globally renowned signatories" include JM Coetzee, Yann Martel, Ariel Dorfman, Amit Chaudhuri, Roddy Doyle, Amos Oz, David Grossman, and the Russian Mikhail Shishkin. Henning Mankell, Lionel Shriver, Hanif Kureishi and the antipodean writers CK Stead, Thomas Keneally and Anna Funder have also given their support to the initiative.

The authors' call for action follows yesterday's plea by a coalition of leading internet companies for the "urgent reform" of the surveillance practices employed by governments worldwide. The companies said revelations about bulk data collection revealed by Edward Snowden have "shaken the public's faith" in the web.

A statement released by the authors says mass surveillance practices have challenged and undermined the right of all humans to "remain unobserved and unmolested" in their thoughts, personal environments and communications, the Guardian says. "This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes," the statement adds.

"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."

The authors' statement is being launched simultaneously in 27 countries, and organisers hope the public will show their support by signing up via the website. · 

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