LONDON Sun Nov 3, 2013 7:48pm GMT

A demonstrator wears a T-shirt depicting former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden at the ''Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance'' in Washington, October 26, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A demonstrator wears a T-shirt depicting former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden at the ”Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance” in Washington, October 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

(Reuters) – The British government’s response to leaks of intelligence information by former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has eroded human rights and press freedoms, rights groups said on Sunday.

In an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron published in the Guardian newspaper, 70 different press advocacy and rights groups from 40 countries said they were alarmed at the way his government had reacted, saying it had invoked national security legislation to try to suppress information of public interest.

“We believe that the United Kingdom government’s response … is eroding fundamental human rights in the country. The government’s response has been to condemn, rather than celebrate, investigative journalism, which plays a crucial role in a healthy democratic society,” they said.

Disclosures about the activities of GCHQ eavesdropping organisation and its cooperation with America’s National Security Agency (NSA) have embarrassed the government and angered many MPs in Cameron’s ruling Conservative party, who believe the leaks have harmed national security.

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