VVOJ Activiteiten

Open letter to journalists

Dear Colleagues,

Soon, journalists and their sources could very well be taken to court by the companies that they report on. Exposing wrongdoings these companies want to keep in the dark may soon become illegal. That is unless we take action now to defend our right as citizens to be informed, and the right of journalists to inform us.

As a journalist myself, my job is to reveal stories in the name of public interest. But soon, it may become impossible for me to report to you on so many stories about France’s economic, political or social life. The reports that we produce for “Cash Investigation” would most certainly not be broadcast. On all media, investigative journalism is endangered.

The threat? A new European directive on “trade secrets”. This directive will allow companies to decide arbitrarily on whether information with economic worth should be published. While claiming to protect business interests, especially those of small and medium-sized enterprises, the draft is a direct attempt to legitimate corporate opacity.

We journalists see it as yet another weapon of mass dissuasion against journalism and freedom of information. A new form of censorship. Pure and simple. So far, the main supporter of this directive is Big Business. Air Liquide, Alstom, DuPont, General Electric, Intel, Michelin, Nestlé and Safran, among others, have all been spotted trying to push the directive forward. Not quite the SMEs that fear corporate espionage, as the official version goes…

This directive gives companies almost free rein to assess what a trade secret is. Are we supposed to trust them not to resort to that directive to exert increasing pressure to prevent leaks, and to protect business as usual?

This unbalanced piece of legislation will leave it to judges to decide whether or not a trade secret is legitimately disclosed. Judges may well soon turn into your national editors in chief, deciding what’s worth reporting. We believe it is a huge blow to the freedom of the press, and to the citizen’s right to be informed.

Journalists and sources alike may have to pay the holder of a so-called trade secret “damages commensurate to the prejudice suffered”, thus facing millions or billions of euros in fines. With such a financial threat, who will now accept to take so much risk? Who – like Antoine Deltour at the origin of the Luxleaks’ revelations – will now dare to expose company wrongdoing?

As a matter of fact, with this so-called “trade secrets” directive, none of you would have heard of tax evasion scandal Luxleaks, Monsanto’s pesticides, or the scandal of the Gardasyl vaccine…

We, journalists and citizens, believe elected representatives shouldn’t be discussing a text that is a threat to freedom of speech without consultations with representatives of the press, whistleblowers and NGOs.

We, journalists and citizens, refuse to rely on press releases to inform you.

We, journalists and citizens, believe that you are entitled to information free from corporate overhaul.

With your support, we ask for this liberty-killer “trade secret” directive to be called off.

Edouard Perrin
Reporter Cash Investigation
“Premières Lignes”
10 rue Nicolas Appert
75011 Paris

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