Surveillance in the UK is having a hugely negative effect on the ability of journalists to work in the public interest and protect their sources, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said here Wednesday.
Recent reports show that the UK's Met Police obtained a journalist's phone records to identify confidential sources directly. The IFJ in a statement said it believes this action is a clear attack on freedom of expression as defined by international humanitarian law.
It said that the climate of secrecy around mass surveillance activities means that sources will be less likely to contact journalists as they cannot know when they might be monitored or how intercepted information might be used against them.
"For a free press to function the means of communicating with a journalist must also be protected," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.
"But the climate of uncertainty created by surveillance in the UK means that sources are nervous about talking to journalists because they fear the consequences. This tips the balance in favour of government and clearly undermines democratic values. It is a very worrying development," he said.
The IFJ has issued the comments as it prepares for a conference titled "Journalism in the age of mass surveillance: safeguarding journalists and their sources" in London tomorrow.
The Brussels-based IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries.