LuxLeaks verdict gives wrong signal for potential whistleblowers

A court in Luxembourg today handed down suspended jail sentences for two whistleblowers 12 months for Antoine Deltour and 9 months for Raphaël Halet) and acquitted the investigative journalist Edouard Perrin in a major case with widespread implications for media freedom. The judges were delievering their verdict in the LuxLeaks case concerning the prosecution of two whistleblowers and a journalist for disclosing confidential documents from auditing firm PwC that showed how 340 multinational companies used secret tax deals to avoid paying into the public coffers. A European Parliament study estimated that EU countries lose 50 billion to 70 billion EUR in tax revenue every year, due to corporate income tax avoidance. Philippe Leruth, IFJ President, said: “The court decision gives the wrong signal to potential whistleblowers and puts at great risk the relation between journalists and their sources. The impressive investigative work done by ICIJ journalists and Edouard Perrin in this case and the act of courage of whistleblowers must be considered as one of the best illustrations of the way journalists and their sources can work in the public interest. We are deeply disappointed by the sentence against the whistleblowers. Full protection must be granted to protect journalists relations with their sources”. Mogens Blicher Bjerregard, EFJ President, said: “First of all, those whistleblowers and our colleague journalist Edouard Perrin shouldn’t have been prosecuted at all by the national authorities because they totally acted in the public interest by revealing secret tax deals having an enormous financial impact on public funding. We are of course satisfied with the acquittal for Edouard Perrin, the investigative journalist working for France 2 but we are extremely unsatisfied with the suspended jail sentence against the two whistleblowers as journalists sources are being severely punished. The European Parliament has been asking repeatedly to the Commission for a European protection for more than 10 years. After this trial and also the heated debate around the adoption of the trade secrets directive, it’s now urgent to work on a directive to protect whistleblowers and concrete proposals are already ready at the European level”.

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