Protecting the truth: Safety for Journalists & Whistleblowers

14th February 2018

PCaW were invited to attend an event in Brussels at the European Union Parliament to remember Maltese journalist and anti-corruption activitist Daphne Caruana Galizia who was murdered last year in a car bomb.

The conference, ‘Protecting the truth: Safety for Journalists and Whistleblowers’ organised by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left, and opened by Daphne’ son Andrew who addressed the EU Parliament with a moving speech declaring that the “fight for truth and justice is a universal one”.

WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who Skyped in to the meeting, said that the murder of Daphne is a “shining example of impunity”.

Prior to her murder, Daphne spent some 30 years as an investigative journalist exposing wide-scale corruption, particularly within the higher ranks of the Maltese government. Some of her most identifiable work was her reporting of the Panama Papers and the allegations she made in relation to senior Maltese politicians’ involvement in this scandal.

Reporters without Borders, an international organisation that defends freedom of information, informed delegates that Mrs Caruana Galizia was not the only journalist to be murdered in 2017: across the world, 65 journalists were killed last year, however Daphne’s murder was only one of four in EU member states in the last ten years.

But what about whistleblowers? Speakers at the conference were quick to point out how crucial they are to journalists – not least those that dig their claws in to the most controversial of issues. Edouard Perrin, a French journalist who first reported on the Lux-Leaks scandal, commented that journalists can’t “live without whistleblowers”. He went on to make an emotive plea that pressure be put on the EU Commission to ensure the passing of an EU-wide whistleblowing directive be moved up the political agenda. Julian Assange, on the other hand, argued that any whistleblowing law – however robust – could be circumvented by governments, so he proposed countries be open to the idea of offering asylum to those who blow the whistle.

In my work as a Public Concern at Work Adviser, I have come across cases from whistleblowers in various employment roles who are contemplating taking their stories to journalists. This line of disclosure is not always advised, but there are no doubt circumstances when it is right for whistleblowers to put their faith in journalists to expose the wrongdoing that has been observed. After all, and as Daphne Caruana Galizia believed, the truth must come out.

By PCaW Adviser Chev Ilangaratne