Sign the petition for strong whistleblower protection

The role of media and investigative journalism

The LuxLeaks revelations were unprecedented not only in the level of corruption they uncovered, but also in the vast array of journalists from different media organisations working together to uncover corruption.

July 4, 2018Blog
administration-articles-bank-261949

Under the umbrella of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, 80 reporters from news outlets around the world worked for months to trawl through 28,000 pages of documents. The result, published in 2014, was to have wide-ranging repercussions, eventually leading to proposals for changing in the law. The Panama Papers in 2015 and the Paradise Papers in 2017, followed the same template.

From Woodward and Bernstein exposing Nixon in the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, to the present day, investigative journalists have been putting their lives on the line in the name of the truth. And far too many of them have paid the ultimate price.

In October 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia, an independent Maltese journalist, was murdered by a car bomb. She was a vocal critic of corruption in Malta and had uncovered scandal after scandal, yet for decades, she had endured a vast array of intimidation and threats. According to her son Matthew Caruana Galizia, himself a member of  International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, death threats were almost a daily occurrence. Attempts were also made to freeze her financial assets, and she was bombarded by lawsuits.

In February 2018, Jan Kuciak, an investigative journalist who specialised in exposing tax fraud with links to Slovak politicians, was also murdered. His killing toppled the Fico government.

Both have been posthumously recognised. The left group in the European Parliament, GUE/NGL, awarded Kuciak the inaugural award for Journalists, Whistleblowers and Defenders of the Right to Information established in honour of Caruana Galizia. The award is for individuals or groups who have been intimidated and/or persecuted for uncovering the truth and exposing it to the public.

Honouring those who bravely spoke out for the good of all is appropriate, but there should be adequate protection for others who continue their work.

In April 2018,  the European Parliament backed a resolution to protect investigative journalists in Europe. The resolution called on the Commission to create a permanent financial scheme to support independent investigative journalism, as well as a Europol investigation of the murder of Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnírová.

“The murder of Ján Kuciak is a sign of the increasingly perilous situation that those working to cast light on abuse of power find themselves in. A thriving democracy relies on investigative journalism. But that requires funding. To sustain the work of people like Ján Kuciak and Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Commission should create a permanent fund to support investigative journalism,” said Greens MEP Benedek Jávor.

“We will fight hard for strong protections for investigative journalists. As we have seen from the latest Facebook scandal to the Panama Papers, investigative journalists work hand-in-hand with whistleblowers to expose corruption and it is vital that they are also protected. As we have tragically seen in both Malta and Slovakia in recent months, far too often they pay a heavy price for their investigative work,” added S&D MEP Virginie Rozière.

Many more journalists around the world face other forms of persecution. Swedish advocacy group, the Stockholm Center for Freedom, estimates that in Turkey it is estimated that 245 journalists remain in prison for simply doing their job.

But Europe is not immune. In July 2015, Germany’s domestic secret service threatened two journalists with jail time in Germany for publishing information about the extent of the country’s surveillance activities.

Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister editors at Netzpolitik.org were informed them that they were under investigation for treason for published two articles based on leaked information. The case, which many saw as an effort to clamp down on the freedom of the press, saw Germany's chief federal prosecutor Harald Range toppled over his handling of the affair.

Whether the threat of death, jail time, other forms of persecution or simple interference with their work, investigative journalists face exceptional obstacles in uncovering wrong-doing, speaking truth to power and holding the powerful to account.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Reporters Without Borders (RWB), the European Magazine Media Association (EMMA), the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA) and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU - UER)  have all called for better protection for investigative journalism and freedom of information in the EU.

Share it

Honouring those who bravely spoke out for the good of all is appropriate, but there should be adequate protection for others who continue their work.

Brusselsgeek Colour

About the author

Jennifer Baker is an EU Policy Correspondent in Brussels.

You can follow her on Twitter @brusselsgeek

MORE ARTICLES

What now for the new Whistleblower Protection Directive?

By Martin Todd | April 18, 2019

On Tuesday it was all about the euphoria of the whistleblower protection Directive being adopted by the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg. Now the hard work begins again, as politicians, trade unions, NGOs and whistleblowers meet to discuss; “The future of the new [whistleblower protection] Directive”, at a civil society event at the European Parliament, on the 17th of April.

The future of the new whistleblower directive

By Janina Mackiewicz | April 15, 2019

In the final session before the EU elections, the European Parliament will vote for a new EU Directive to protect whistleblowers in Europe. Civil society played an essential role in making this happen.

JURI unanimously accepts trilogue’s whistleblower protection deal

By Martin Todd | March 18, 2019

Warm applause greeted the unanimous adoption of last week’s trilogue provisional agreement on whistleblower protection, at today’s European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee.

Whistleblower Protection platform largely welcomes EU agreement

By Martin Todd | March 13, 2019

Members of the WhistleblowersProtection.EU platform mainly welcomed the provisional agreement reached by the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council, in the early hours of the 12th of March.

EU whistleblower directive must give whistleblowers all reporting options

By Nadja Salson | March 7, 2019

The European Union is expected to shortly adopt the EU’s flagship whistleblower protection directive. EPSU, believes it is essential that the final legislation fully protects whistleblowers and encourages whistleblowers to report wrongdoing, through which ever route they consider most appropriate, be that the media or relevant authorities.

More than quarter of a million signatures support stronger whistleblower protection

By Martin Todd | March 5, 2019

MEP Virginie Rozière, European Parliament Rapporteur for the proposed whistleblower protection directive, yesterday, received petitions with more than 280,000 signatures, gathered by coalitions of trade unions and NGOs, which she handed over to the Council of the European Union at the final scheduled trilogue in the Parliament on Monday 4 March.

Over a quarter of a million signatories support better whistleblower protection

By Martin Todd | March 4, 2019

Today trade unions and NGOs will deliver two petitions gathering over 280,000 signatures supporting the European Parliament’s demands for an improved directive.

European whistleblowers call for better directive

By Martin Jefflen | February 25, 2019

In an open letter to the European Council, Commission and Parliament seven well-known European whistleblowers speak out for changing the directive and removing barriers for safe reporting.

Whistleblowers could be badly served by the EU’s proposed Whistleblowing Directive

By John Devitt | February 25, 2019

The EU Whistleblowing Directive is an idea whose time has come. New whistleblower protection laws in Ireland, France and the Netherlands showed consensus was building among EU Member States on the need to protect and enable workers to speak up about wrongdoing in the workplace.

Change the whistleblower protection directive – or it will not work

By Martin Jefflen | February 25, 2019

The directive must be changed to that whistleblowers can report not only a special internal whistleblowing channel, but also to managers or law enforcement.