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Writers against surveillance

ABR Arts 10 December 2013

Writers against surveillance

ABR Arts 10 December 2013

ABR proudly supports 500 authors around the world in protesting at the infringement of civil rights in the digital age and seeking the creation of an International Bill of Digital Rights.

The initiative called ‘Writers Against Surveillance’ today published a pledge demanding ‘all states and corporations’ respect the right ‘for all people, as democratic citizens, to determine to what extent their personal data may be collected, stored and processed.’ To protect civil rights in the digital age, the authors are also urging the United Nations ‘to create an International Bill of Digital Rights.’

This global intervention was organized by a small and independent international group of authors (Juli Zeh, Ilija Trojanow, Eva Menasse, Janne Teller, Priya Basil, Isabel Cole, and Josef Haslinger) within the last few weeks.

The authors are asking people around the world to join their call by signing on to their public pledge against surveillance at

‘Surveillance violates the private sphere and compromises freedom of thought and we no longer want to watch the inaction of decision makers,’ says German writer and spokesperson Juli Zeh. ‘We all have to stand up now, and we as writers do what we can do best: use the written word to intervene publicly.’

Five hundred renowned authors from around the world have signed the appeal, including five Nobel Prize winners: Orhan Pamuk, J.M. Coetzee, Elfriede Jelinek, Günter Grass and Thomas Tranströmer. Also among the signatories are Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Daniel Kehlmann, Nawal El Saadawi, Arundhati Roy, Henning Mankell, Richard Ford, Javier Marias, Björk, David Grossmann, Arnon Grünberg, Angeles Mastretta, Juan Goytisolo, Nuruddin Farah, João Ribeiro, Victor Erofeyev, Liao Yiwu and David Malouf.

The call to action has been featured in media outlets such as the New York Times, The Guardian, F.A.Z., and El País.

See below for the official Writers' Appeal.



In recent months, the extent of mass surveillance has become common knowledge. With a few clicks of the mouse the state can access your mobile device, your e-mail, your social networking and Internet searches. It can follow your political leanings and activities and, in partnership with Internet corporations, it collects and stores your data, and thus can predict your consumption and behaviour.

The basic pillar of democracy is the inviolable integrity of the individual. Human integrity extends beyond the physical body. In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested.

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

  • Surveillance violates the private sphere and compromises freedom of thought and opinion.
  • Mass surveillance treats every citizen as a potential suspect. It overturns one of our historical triumphs, the presumption of innocence.
  • Surveillance makes the individual transparent, while the state and the corporation operate in secret. As we have seen, this power is being systematically abused.
  • Surveillance is theft. This data is not public property: it belongs to us. When it is used to predict our behaviour, we are robbed of something else: the principle of free will crucial to democratic liberty.

WE DEMAND THE RIGHT for all people to determine, as democratic citizens, to what extent their personal data may be legally collected, stored and processed, and by whom; to obtain information on where their data is stored and how it is being used; to obtain the deletion of their data if it has been illegally collected and stored.


WE CALL ON ALL CITIZENS to stand up and defend these rights.

WE CALL ON THE UNITED NATIONS to acknowledge the central importance of protecting civil rights in the digital age, and to create an International Bill of Digital Rights.

WE CALL ON GOVERNMENTS to sign and adhere to such a convention.

Click here to see the full list of signatories.

From the New Issue

Comments (2)

  • I have been and probably still am a victim of surveillance.I can not understand the reason why! Go figure.
    Posted by Gwen Nickolls
    17 January 2014
  • I am a law abiding citizen.
    Posted by Alison Moore
    14 January 2014

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