How Freedom of the Press is being assassinated (Part III)
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How Freedom of the Press is being assassinated (Part III)
What are the differences between Mark Zuckerberg and me?
I give private information on corporations to you for free, and I'm a villain.
Zuckerberg gives your private information to corporations for money and he’s Man of the Year.
Lack of Interest by the Media of some Cases
Alain Gautier, former employee at Vortex, explains that he has been followed by all the local media he had contacted. Dozens of articles have been published namey by Sud-Ouest, Midi Libre, Nice-Matin, Le Progrès, La Nouvelle République, La Provence, Paris Normandie, La Voix du Nord, Le Dauphiné etc. France 3 has systematically relayed each of his actions. On the contrary, except from the AFP (Agence France Presse), which had relayed a press release and the daily L’Humanité – sued for defamation by Vortex – he has never been able to contact the national media because he “ would not have the Network to hail them ”. He insists “Network with a capital N because without a Network, a whistleblower gets restless and is exhausted ”.
Alain Gautier receiving the Ethical Prize from the Anticor association in Paris, January 26, 2018 – Personal collection
If the regional media is accessible, it nevertheless has little impact on the decision makers. As such, despite numerous press clippings relating the Vortex wrongdoings, the situation remains unchanged for the transport users and the employees of the company.
Alain Gautier reminds us that the average monthly gross salary of the Vortex drivers does not reach five hundred (500) euros and that the company finds the way not to pay the total amount of the salaries owed to the employees. The latter feel so abandoned and so humiliated that the annual turnover reaches 50%.
Generally speaking, the Corporate Officers of the markets relating to transportation adapted to disabled citizens close their eyes as far as the devastating practices of such companies are concerned. These low-cost companies propose to keep their disability budget down through calls for tender in which the price can represent up to 90% of the allocation score. As such, in these transportation businesses, the respect of social rules represents an adjustment factor of the prices of their markets, therefore taking hostage the most vulnerable ones of our society.
Alain Gautier remembers that at the time when he blew the whistle for the first time, a Transport Manager of the territorial community had told him, uninhibited: « If the employees are not happy with their fate, not being paid all the hours they work, they’d rather change jobs! ” At the same period, whereas employees were on strike to obtain a petrol card in order not to pay in advance the petrol of the vehicles for the company, another Transport Director told me, without holding back: « How long are you going to piss me off with your strikes? Your CEO had already told and repeated to you that you will never get your petrol card! ». These two managers of territorial communities encapsulate the problem of this scandal: Alain Gautier is perceived as being «bothersome» in the functioning of these public markets.By encouraging such companies through tenders and then by closing their eyes on their practices, wouldn’t the territorial communities be their accomplice? Is this also because of their intermediary that it is difficult or even impossible to have the scandal in the national mainstream media?
During the fall of 2017, the online media Mediapart published an investigation about the Vortex scandal in three parts: A social part on December 4, 2017 followed by an economical part and a judiciary part on March 7, 2019. The Director of the Assemblée des Départements de France (ADF – French Departments Assembly) interviewed by Mediapart about the Vortex scandal declared that he has never heard about Vortex [SIC] and added: « In the administration, a series of umbrellas or cowards act as a screen. »
Alain Gautier is not an isolated case. As many whistleblowers, with his family, he paid a high price the “cowardice” of the French Departments which had a perfect knowledge of the Vortex wrongdoings as of January 2, 2013. The whistleblower was within several months subjected to his managers’ orchestrated destruction as far as his professional, social and family lives are concerned, in full view of the public authorities. In spite of the judgments and the frauds being recognized, not a single mainstream media is interested in this scandal. Alain Gautier could only agree with Assange’s quote:
There is unity in the oppression.
There must be absolute unity and determination, in the response.
As far as the civil servant Françoise Nicolas is concerned, she started to speak publicly in October 2010 for the occasion of a file published by the daily Libération relating to harassment in the diplomatic positions. In her commentary, she explained that she was a ‘survivor’ in the first sense of the word. The journalist contacted her but considered the case as being too complex and transferred the coordinates of the whistleblower to a journalist specialized in the failings of the French diplomacy. Franck Renaud then reported the attack and the shady context in the introduction of the re-publishing of his pocket-format book, Les Diplomates. Derrière la façade des ambassades de France (The Diplomats, Behind the Façade of the French Embassies). The story was only taken up by the media specialized on Africa (La Lettre du Continent) and by the Benin press. An interview given by Franck Renaud in Presse Océan evoking the very unusual situation of the diplomat was not continued. All the efforts made by Francoise to be listened to for the last years, have been hollow. Multiple factors can explain this lack of concern such as the relative low sums of money at stake compared to the billions in the tax evasion and tax optimization; however the public misappropriation of funds is documented, the suspicion of damage to integrity is blatant, the murder attempt on a civil servant in the exercise of her duty cannot be questioned etc. She rises up: “ Therefore, why such a silence except if it is only leniency? ” In April 2019, the daily Liberation however wrote a detailed article, the content of which would be inaccurate as per the whistleblower’s pinned tweet on her Twitter account.
The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he's a the victim and make the victim look like he's the criminal.
This is the press, an irresponsible press.
It will make the criminal look like he's the victim and make the victim look like he's the criminal.
If you aren't careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.
Anonymity of the Whistleblowers
Conversely, certain whistleblowers do not want to appear in the media at all, or rather they want to be anonymized. One cannot prove them wrong because the media appearance, whether suffered or intentional of the ones or the others, has proven that the business world closes its doors on the whistleblowers, whatever their skills, age or experience. The risks are real and some whistleblowers are in danger of death.
John Doe is the alias used by the Panama Papers whistleblowers. They have understood that it is almost impossible to separate the content of the alert from those who blow the whistle. The opponents take a sadistic delight in denouncing the one who discloses the malfunction rather than speaking about the content of the alert. John Doe has for sure understood Ed Snowden’s statement:
I do not want the attention of the public because I do not want the story to be about me, but about what the US government does.
Photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has published several international investigations while organizing leaks of tremendous information in dozens of different countries thanks to hundreds of media and journalists. Being at the origin of the Panama Papers file, the ICIJ awakens everybody’s curiosity, namely on the name and personality of the whistleblower(s). The fact that the anonymity is protected allows the reader to focus only on the content of the information. The implicated company cannot argue to denounce those at the origin of the leaks nor can it take them to court for the theft of the documents. Gerard Ryle, Director of the ICIJ confirmed to me that “the whistleblowers pay a very high price. They often are prosecuted by the authorities or are threatened to be” adding that “It is for this reason that the German journalist Bastian Obermayer is the only one who knows the identity of the whistleblower(s) of the Panama Papers scandal”.
This collaboration between whistleblowers and 260 investigation journalists in more than 100 countries is not in its early stages because the LuxLeaks and the Swiss Leaks - HSBC had been made public in several dozens of countries thanks to the active participation of media of all kinds. For 25 years, the investigation subjects on which the ICIJ has focused are corruption and international crime. The consortium imposes very strict confidentiality rules to each journalist, who works on the numerous data of the ‘leak’ during an established period of time (it often is about a whole year), investigates the information, asks interviews to the people concerned or targeted. All the journalists and media are to make their investigation public as far as the file is concerned at an agreed date or hour.
There is strength in unity
International investigations are at huge stake. Among other things, they allow to reach an important number of listeners and readers. The idea sparked as in 2018 we heard with great interest the creation of The Signals Network.
Thanks to its network and its partnerships with big European and North-American media groups, an international investigation relating to the abusive use of big data was initiated in June 2018 by die Zeit (Germany), Mediapart (France), The Daily Telegraph (UK), The Intercept (USA) and WikiTribune (international). The initiative made this international investigation maximize its impact for the benefit of the grand public withan audience up to more than forty six millions of readers worldwide. Gilles Raymond, Founder and President de The Signals, explains that it was “time to create a proactive dynamic towards whistleblowers. We think that each citizen is allow to know and that one has the duty to talk when important wrongdoings take place. Whistleblowers, who risk everything then they speak up for the truth, need support. This is what The Signals is committed to”. Beyond providing easier ways of communication between the whistleblowers and the partners in charge of the investigations, the Signals Network also offers six levels of protection to selected whistleblowers, namely legal and psychological support, advocacy, media training, information securityand potential safe-housing. We all wish we would have been able to enjoy such a support.
Cover Photo: Free Assange Belgium Committee, Act 99. Photo taken by Mrs. Monique Dits
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