European Federation of Journalists

LuxLeaks verdict gives the wrong signal for potential whistleblowers

Suspended jail sentences for whistleblowers (12 months and 1.500 EUR penalty for Antoine Deltour and 9 months and 1.000 EUR penalty for Raphaël Halet) and acquittal for the investigative journalist (Edouard Perrin), that’s the verdict of Luxembourg court in the LuxLeaks case.

Judges in Luxembourg delivered today (29/06/2016) a verdict in LuxLeaks case related to 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’s study estimates that EU countries lose 50 billion to 70 billion EUR in tax revenue every year, due to corporate income tax avoidance.

Mogens Blicher Bjerregard (EFJ President) says :

“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 enormous financial impact on public fundings. We are of course satisfied with the acquittal for Edouard Perrin, the investigative journalist working for Le Monde but we are also 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 ready at the European level”.

Philippe Leruth (IFJ President) said :

“The court decision gives the wrong signal to potential whistleblowers and puts a 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 could work effectively for the public interest. We are strongly disappointed by the sentence against whistleblowers. A full protection must be granted to secure journalists relation with their sources”.

Jane Whyatt, project manager of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) says:

“The judges have clearly decided to protect the interests and reputation of multinational companies that allegedly avoided taxes rather than the interest of public to be informed about wrong-doings. This decision will surely discourage potential whistleblowers. This judgement shows that much needs to be done for a strong legal protection of whistleblowers at the European level.”

Photo Credit : JOHN THYS / AFP