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Trade Secrets: We Must Act To Protect Whistleblowers!

Paris, 3 March 2015 — In late April 2015, the “trade secrets” directive will be discussed in the European Parliament. Having already given in to the pressure of journalists to remove the article on trade secrets in the French Macron Bill, La Quadrature du Net, Pila and a number of other organisations now call on president François Hollande and European representatives to defend whistleblowers, to define and protect their status and to ensure the necessary means are provided for judiciary follow-up on the crimes and offences that are revealed. The situation of whistleblowers, such as Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, is often dramatic and they must be protected and their safety guaranteed in order to safeguard fundamental freedoms.

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden

On 30 January, following the uproar of French journalists, French President François Holland demanded (fr) the article on trade secrets be removed from the Macron Bill. Despite this victory for the freedom to inform and denounce the illicit activities of private corporations, whistleblowers remain threatened. Indeed, the current draft of a European directive to be debated at the end of April in the European Parliament criminalises the violation of trade secrets in Europe, without an effective protection of whistleblowers. In order to raise awareness on the dangers weighing on the freedom to inform, La Quadrature du Net along with other organisations has penned an op-ed in yesterday's Libération (fr) and a open letter letter to the French President.

In May 2008 and February 2011, Wikileaks leaked to the press the draft versions of ACTA, a multi-lateral agreement which was denounced by La Quadrature du Net until its striking demise before the European Parliament in July 2012. In July 2013, Edward Snowden, then working for the NSA, left the USA to take refuge in Hong-Kong and entrust journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras with thousands of documents proving mass spying of communications, including those of its own citizens, by the USA and its allies. Even though their contribution to the democratic debate have been crucial and the scandals they revealed huge, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and many other whistleblowers have been and continue to be persecuted for their actions. The directive intended to be discussed in late April in the European Parliament could dramatically worsen the risks weighing on the citizens who make the publication of these crucial documents possible. It contains heavy sanctions against any person infringing on trade secrets, all without precisely defining a particular status for whistleblowers which would not only protect but also support them.

Thanks to Edward Snowden's revelations on the mass surveillance of communications, to those of Swissleaks on how banking confidentiality is abused or those of Luxleaks on how large corporations find arrangements with taxes in Europe, the EU is discovering the importance of whistleblowers and the possibility to denounce crimes, offences and the lack of moral limits in private corporations and public structures. It is unacceptable that these same whistleblowers be threatened with sanctions by the Members of the European Parliament in the name of protecting private interests! On the contrary, it is urgent to help protect them and finally create proper procedures for investigating the crimes and offenses that they reveal to the public eye.” declared Benjamin Sonntag, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net.

See the common op-ed on Libération (fr): http://www.liberation.fr/economie/2015/03/02/fragile-droit-d-alerte_1212713