America, Edward Snowden & Human Rights

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Important Update: “In her first reference to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s case, UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay has called on all countries to protect the rights of those who uncover abuses and stressed the need to respect the right for people to seek asylum. Commenting on the fugitive former US intelligence contractor, who is presently wanted by the US for leaking classified details of its surveillance programs, Pillay noted that undue surveillance could amount to an infringement of human rights. More here..

(Full transcript of the statement made by Edward Snowden, in which he accepts all offers of asylum he has been given. See here…)

Edward Snowden, a former American intelligence employee, has exposed the chinks in the armour of the only superpower in the world. An economically-struggling US has launched a multi-million massive worldwide hunt to apprehend its 30-year-old citizen. Snowden is on the run because he exposed the controversial domestic and international spying programmes of the America’s National Security Agency. Obama administration is now pleading with Russia and hostile Latin American countries not to give refuge to Snowden.

But where is Edward Snowden? Although he is still said to be camping in Moscow airport, his whereabouts has set the internet alive with speculation. In view of the worldwide excitement that the Snowden affair has generated, a leading British newspaper, The Independent, has published three emails stating, “all suggestions and pictures of possible Snowden sightings welcome.” It wouldn’t be surprising if Snowden is remembered in American history books as something of a mysterious Himalayan Yeti or Scottish Loch Ness monster.

However, the freedom-loving people in the world would always be grateful to Snowden for exposing the ugly side of America that proclaims itself as the symbol of democracy and open society. It was Wikileaks that first familiarised the world with the dangerous tactics that the US administration could resort to in the name of ‘war on terror’. Wikileaks owe much to Bradley Manning, an under-trial young American soldier, and Australian Julian Assange, who has taken refuge in the Ecuador embassy in London to save itself from the clutches of the US administration. To make matters worse for Obama administration, Snowden’s reported meeting with the human rights groups, including the Amnesty International at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport, is drawing international attention.

Human rights group Transparency International, the Human Rights Watch and other groups were also invited. It is ironical that the US that was once viewed as protector of human rights, is now on the receiving end. It is an interesting thought that Narendra Modi, who is not allowed to enter America for allegedly violating human rights, could on becoming the Prime Minister give Obama a lecture on protecting the rights of whistle-blowers. Meanwhile Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have said they would be willing to grant asylum to Snowden. Whatever ultimately happens to Edward Snowden, it is clear that America would find it difficult to remove the stigma of hounding those who take a principled stand on protecting human rights and democracy all over the world. (My edit published in the DailyPost India

Russian authorities said he should not harm the interests of the United States if he wants refuge in Russia – a condition set by President Vladimir Putin. “Snowden is serious about obtaining political asylum in the Russian Federation,” said Vyacheslav Nikonov, a pro-Kremlin lawmaker who attended the meeting with Snowden, who had not been seen in public since arriving from Hong Kong. After Snowden’s meeting, pro-Kremlin politicians lined up to cast the American as a rights activist who deserves protection because he could be charged in the United States with espionage, a crime that carries the death penalty. More here…

Whistleblower Edward Snowden, who surfaced for the first time since being been holed up in Moscow airport for almost a month, has unleashed another storm about US intelligence services spying on private citizens. An expose by the Guardian, quoting papers obtained from Snowden, has alleged that Microsoft cooperated with the American National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept users’ data, including helping the agency to crack Microsoft’s own encryption codes. See here…

(Photo: Edward Snowden at the Moscow airport July 12, 2013, with Sarah Harrison of Wikileaks on the left side of the photo.)

Author: SWARAAJ CHAUHAN, International Columnist

Swaraaj Chauhan describes his two-decade-long stint as a full-time journalist as eventful, purposeful, and full of joy and excitement. In 1993 he could foresee a different work culture appearing on the horizon, and decided to devote full time to teaching journalism (also, partly, with a desire to give back to the community from where he had enriched himself so much.) Alongside, he worked for about a year in 1993 for the US State Department's SPAN magazine, a nearly five-decade-old art and culture monthly magazine promoting US-India relations. It gave him an excellent opportunity to learn about things American, plus the pleasure of playing tennis in the lavish American embassy compound in the heart of New Delhi. In !995 he joined WWF-India as a full-time media and environment education consultant and worked there for five years travelling a great deal, including to Husum in Germany as a part of the international team to formulate WWF's Eco-tourism policy. He taught journalism to honors students in a college affiliated to the University of Delhi, as also at the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication where he lectured on "Development Journalism" to mid-career journalists/Information officers from the SAARC, African, East European and Latin American countries, for eight years. In 2004 the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) selected him as a Trainer/Mentor for India under a European Union project. In 2008/09 He completed another European Union-funded project for the BBC WST related to Disaster Management and media coverage in two eastern States in India --- West Bengal and Orissa. Last year, he spent a couple of months in Australia and enjoyed trekking, and also taught for a while at the University of South Australia. Recently, he was appointed as a Member of the Board of Studies at Chitkara University in Chandigarh, a beautiful city in North India designed by the famous Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. He also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students there. He loves trekking, especially in the hills, and never misses an opportunity to play a game of tennis. The Western and Indian classical music are always within his reach for instant relaxation. And last, but not least, is his firm belief in the power of the positive thought to heal oneself and others.

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