Panama Papers - Kristof Clerix at #ECPMF2016 Conference


During the ECPMF Media Freedom Conference 2016 Kristof Clerix, journalists atKnack and ICIJ, spoke about the source protection in whistleblowing cases with a particular focus on Panama Papers

Kristof Clerix presented the criteria that are evaluated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) before taking on a case and concentrated on the particular case of Panama Papers, since he was one of the journalists who worked with the case directly. The investigation was covered by journalists from 70 countries analysing documents which were used to set up off shore companies, which means that no taxes are paid. Off shore companies are also frequently used for the reason of anonymity. Notably, the establishment of off shore companies is not always illegal. If one declares the funds and the offshore, the activity is legal.

The journalist stressed the importance of intermediaries such as banks, financial advisors, accountants and lawyers. The disclosure of the leaks had a big impact on the world – people protested, Icelandic prime minister resigned, officials in other countries and organisations also resigned, new legislative proposals were introduced by governments, European Parliament set up an inquiry committee and tax authorities launched tax investigations.

Notably, the whistleblower behind Panama Leaks is still unknown to the world and the lack of protection to people like him or her is the reason. The disclosure of the leak also caused pressure on journalists – some governments requested not only the published documents but also the editorial material (for instance Iceland where a court case concerning this matter is currently pending). Post publication issues for journalists is a serious problem and it needs to be addressed.