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More than 500 authors sign global petition to protest mass surveillance

Dec 11 (): More than 500 renowned authors, including five Nobel laureates from more than 80 countries have signed a petition demanding an end to ‘mass surveillance’.

Their open plea is called ‘A Stand for Democracy in the Digital Age’. Among the signatories were the five winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature – South African writer JM Coetzee, Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, Austrian playwright Elfriede Jelinek, Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer and German novelist Günter Grass. Others who have signed the letter include Umberto Eco, Bjork, Ian McEwan, Yann Martel and many others.

The letter is given the day after eight leading US-based technology companies called on Washington to fix its observation laws following the recent leaks of online snooping from fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

The Writers Against Mass Surveillance petition was signed by 562 authors from more than 80 countries and was published in around 30 newspapers worldwide, including The Guardian in Britain.

The petition has raised worries that the most susceptible party in the whole episode are civilians who are kept in the dark about government policies on snooping. It notes the ease with which an agency can track a person – his mobile device, his internet activity, his social network and come to know, illegally, of his ‘opinions, political leanings and activities, consumption and behaviour’.

The appeal says that “in their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested. This fundamental right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes.”

The group is also calling on the UN to create an International Bill of Digital Rights.

One of the petition’s creators German-Bulgarian writer and activist Ilija Trojano said if thoughts and creative works could not be created in privacy it would “truly be a death knell, not only for freedom of expression but for freedom of thought.”