Reaction to court verdict
Following the appeals ruling on 15 March, the website spearheading Deltour’s case issued a statement both welcoming and lamenting the outcome – and hinting that the whistleblower may consider pursuing another appeal. While “for the first time, a European national judge recognizes the legitimacy of violating… professional secrecy” on behalf of public interest, it “still presents a disturbing contradiction”, says Support-Antoine.org:
It recognizes the whistleblower’s role… but anyhow concludes on a condemnation. Antoine Deltour was a whistleblower when he transmitted the documents to the journalist, but is convicted for their acquisition. Once again, private financial interests seem to take priority over the collective interest and the rights [to] information.”
Deltour had told the ECPMF that although he would not be required to serve jail time under the sentence – getting a fine instead – he found the punishment to be harsh and a potential deterrent to other whitleblowers. The partial failure of the court appeal could scare others out of coming forward when detecting wrongdoing, despite growing support at the EU legislative level for the whistleblowers' cause in light of LuxLeaks.
“This sentence is… far from the expected change of era in Europe regarding tax issues, whistleblowers’ protection and the right of information,” adds SupportAntoine.org.
Deltour is disappointed in the ruling and notes via the website the importance of going forward with “European initiatives towards whistleblowers’ protection”. He will appear on 24 March at the ECPMF conference “Promoting dialogue between the ECtHR and the media freedom community”.
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) calls the conviction of both Deltour and Halet “scandalous”, and urges the European Commission (EC) to implement a directive protecting those denouncing abuses and illegal activities in the public interest.
ECPMF member Dirk Voorhoof contributed to this report.