"No EU member state defended Edward Snowden as a whistleblower," Mike Harris, the organization’s head of advocacy told The Guardian. "The EU failed to issue a strong collective statement against mass surveillance, nor have unjust laws such as criminal defamation or national insult laws prevalent across the continent been repealed."
He added that the way authorities responded to media reports, based on the documents leaked by Snowden, were particularly concerning. Instead of protecting the outlets, which were doing their job of informing the public of what many see as unjustified violation of privacy, many EU members put pressure on them.
The Guardian along with such media organizations as the New York Times, the Washington Post and Der Spiegel, are involved in disclosure of mass electronic surveillance by the US National Security Agency in collaboration with its foreign counterparts.
The scale and indiscriminate nature of the practices caused many advocates to criticize it for overstepping the governments’ authority and violating basic human rights.
The criticisms come as the organization is launching its new report this week on the examples of freedom of expression in the European Union. The document’s other highlights include the failure of Brussels to take action in Italy under Silvio Berlusconi, or over the Hungarian crackdown on the media.
“Media freedom in particular has come under attack – from the recent seizure of the Guardian's computers, through to the Hungarian government's clampdown on their media – all in states that have signed up to strong human rights commitments,” Harris said. “While the EU likes to talk about the importance of 'European values', it is failing to practice what it preaches.”
As a major point of criticism, Index on Censorship also mentioned the EU’s lack of support of anti-government activists in the Middle East prior to the Arab Spring.
The London-based organization has been monitoring and reporting government censorship on the media and public since 1972, with the Soviet Union being its initial target.
In the past it took controversial decisions, like awarding its annual freedom of expression award to Julian Assange and the whistleblower website Wikileaks in 2008.