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Inaugural international Freedom not Fear protest a success (17 Sep 2011) Print E-mail

 People from all over Europe protested in Brussels today for more freedom and less fear, demanding respect for their fundamental rights in a networked world. They spoke out against the erosion of their privacy and called for a radical reduction of surveillance measures such as the storage of detailed information about the behavior of all citizens in the EU.

In front of the European Commission building, Katta, member of the German Working Group on Data Retention summed up the main reason for many of the protesters to participate: “This protest is not just about data. It's about the fundamental question of the kind of society we want to live in – one based on freedom, not one based on fear.”

 Earlier, in an emotional speech in front of the European Parliament, Charles, a member of no-CCTV from Great Britain commemorated the death of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 who was mistakenly identified from CCTV-footage as one of the suspects in the bombings in London on 21st July, and who was shot and killed by the police. According to the protesters this shows that more camera surveillance does not make society more secure, but can in fact endanger our safety.

The protesters, also including people from Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, France and Austria, firmly rejected data retention laws and the intergovernmental sharing of data on international travelers under the guise of the fight against terrorism. They expressed concern about the agreements to share sensitive data with the US, Australia and other countries and the proposal for a new system to monitor all travel into and from the EU. These measures, they claim, have not stopped any terrorist, but have diminished personal freedoms. Furthermore, many of the protesters fear the information that governments store is not secure, and is bound to be hacked into, leaked, abused or misinterpreted.

 During a vocal march through the city, the protesters chanted 'Do not even mention data retention' – referring to an EU directive mandating the blanket storage of phone and internet usage throughout Europe which is treating ordinary citizens like suspects. Data retention laws have already been found unconstitutional in Germany, Romania and the Czech Republic.

The day of protest in Brussels is part of a three day event that will include an international conference on Sunday and a day of discussion and talks with European Union representatives on Monday. The “Freedom Not Fear” event is part of an annual European action week, that has seen successful protests this year in – among others – Berlin, Vienna and Luxembourg.

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