Whistleblowers should be protected, not prosecuted

Luxembourg authorities have brought a littany of charges against a whistleblower who has been accused of stealing and leaking secret tax rulings that revealed widespread corporate tax avoidance, and prompted rigorous political debate around tax policy reform.

ICIJ director Gerard Ryle says Luxembourg’s decision to indict the young man is a threat to transparency and accountability in the jurisdiction and elsewhere:

“ICIJ does not comment on sources. However, ICIJ does believe whistleblowers should be protected, not prosecuted.

“Protection of whistleblowers and sources is as important to society as the freedom of the press. Any prosecution against journalists or journalists’ sources has a dangerous chilling effect on the pivotal role these brave individuals play in ensuring the powerful are held accountable.

“The Luxembourg Leaks investigation is an important piece of journalism that raises critical questions about tax policy and practices around the world at a time of economic struggle. Previously secret information that affects members of the public was made available for public scrutiny for the first time. The files revealed aggressive tax avoidance strategies that damage national treasuries and benefit large corporations at the expense of taxpayers.

“Investigations like this rely on concerned citizens who wish to see a more transparent society and would not be possible if these citizens fear prosecution and persecution for their part in uncovering injustice, corruption or wrongdoing.”