Fostering mutual trust between journalists and anti-fraud services in Europe




Brussels, 15 November 2005

Transparency, openness and good communications are key to preventing fraud and the creation of a clean society was one of the conclusions in a ground-breaking discussion between journalists’ leaders and European anti-fraud investigators jointly hosted by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in Brussels.

The event, entitled “Building mutual trust between anti-fraud services and journalists”, was organised for the spokespersons and communication officers of OLAF’s partner services in the EU and the accession countries, the OLAF Anti-Fraud Communicators Network (OAFCN). The seminar’s conclusions were adopted today and are now available online, together with the speeches delivered at the event.

Around 60 OAFCN-members attended the seminar on 28 October in Brussels and took part in the debates with Aidan White, Secretary General of the International Federation of Journalists, and Michael Stabenow, President of the International Press Association in Brussels (API-IPA)

Elaborating on the rights of individuals subject to investigations, the experienced Belgian attorney in law, Noël Louis, represented the perspective of those persons who are the main focus of journalists and anti-fraud services alike. On behalf of European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, Commissioner in charge of anti-fraud policy, his Head of Cabinet, Henrik Hololei, particularly emphasised the importance of transparency for public institutions.

At the end of the seminar participants agreed that the dialogue between journalists’ associations and anti-fraud services should continue and that debates of this kind should be organised at least once a year. OAFCN-members were also encouraged to organise similar debates on a national level with the journalists’ organisations of their home country – a suggestion that was well received by many.

The seminar concluded that a sound working relationship between journalists and investigating services, based upon mutual respect and better awareness of professional rights and responsibilities, can strengthen efforts to expose corruption and fraud.

Investigative services and journalists are bound by the law and it was pointed out that this implies, in particular, the respect for privacy and the protection of the rights of individuals under suspicion or investigation.

The meeting was told that the balancing of rights, for instance on whether to publish or not to publish, is a matter for the judgement of journalists aware of the cardinal principles of their profession -- respect for the truth, the need for independence and impartiality, and an acute awareness of the consequences of a publication.

The anti-fraud services, for their part, need to communicate truthfully and respond as quickly as possible to journalists’ questions. In order to guarantee a free flow of information they should be as transparent and as explicit as possible with the information they hold.

Adherence to these principles and an ongoing dialogue between anti-fraud services and journalists’ groups would foster a better understanding, build confidence between both sides and be a good basis for mutual trust.

Aidan White

General Secretary of the IFJ

Tel: +32 (0)2 235.2200

Fax: +32 (0)2 235.2219

Alessandro Butticé

Head of Communication, PR and Spokesman Unit

Tel : +32 (0)2 296.54.25

Fax : +32 (0)2 299.81.01