ACRI to Europe Asia Pipeline Company: Stop Tracking Climate Activists
According to media reports and climate activists’ testimonies, a representative of the Europe Asia Pipeline Company (EAPC) joined activists’ discussion groups uninvited without identifying himself as an employee on behalf of the company. Once identified, the same representative was removed from the discussion forum, and tried to persuade activists via personal correspondences to stop protesting the company’s operations.
Following the reports, we appealed to the EAPC demanding that it undertake to completely and immediately cease the practice of sending company representatives to eavesdrop on activists organizing protests, or gather information on dialogues between them. In the appeal, ACRI attorney Reut Shaer, Director of the Public Hotline, and Sivan Tahel, Field and Freedom of Protest Coordinator, noted that the EAPC is a state-owned company that performs various functions, operates state-owned facilities, and provides various services by virtue of agreements with the state. The company uses public property as part of its operations, and its income derives from public funds, among other sources. Accordingly, it is subject to public and administrative law restrictions, including an increased obligation to act fairly and in a manner that respects democratic values in its public conduct. Moreover, the company is obliged to respect the rights of the individual protected in Basic Laws, among them the right to freedom of expression.
The appeal noted that “Eavesdropping on, and tracking, conversations between activists in Zoom meetings or WhatsApp conversations, when the listener remains hidden and intentionally refrains from revealing their identity, aim, or the body on behalf of whom they’re operating, creates a chilling effect on freedom of expression. The knowledge that their actions and words may be tracked is liable to deter protesters and activists from participating in protests in the public sphere, and from expressing their opinions freely, even in closed conversations.” It continued to emphasize that “The company does not have the authority to act to deter or dissuade citizens from voicing their views or from organizing or participating in protests.”