TSN, whistleblowers speak at International Journalism Festival
Twitter whistleblower Anika Navaroli, Uber whistleblower Mark MacGann, LuxLeaks whistleblower Antoine Deltour and investigative journalist Frederik Obermaier spoke on a panel moderated by TSN Executive Director Delphine Halgand-Mishra on Thursday, April 20 at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy.
The panel was titled “To go public or not go public? Behind a whistleblower’s personal decision process.” It was intended to help the audience of journalists better understand how to work with whistleblowers.
When introducing the panelists, Halgand-Mishra noted that TSN provides protection to whistleblowers in three time periods: before, during and after the publication of the revelations they provide to journalists.
“Most of the whistleblowers we protect are sent to us by journalists,” Halgand-Mishra said.
During the panel, Navaroli, MacGann and Deltour discussed their decision process to go public when working with journalists.
Navaroli gave information to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. MacGann provided more than 124,000 internal Uber documents to The Guardian last year detailing Uber’s lobbying tactics and its relationship with drivers from 2014-2107. Both receive support from TSN.
When Navaroli first blew the whistle, she was anonymous. In recorded interviews, her voice was disguised and she was hidden behind “a kind of caricature.” But when the Associated Press reported she was a man, other papers started picking it up.
“I realized that while my anonymity provided safety, it also didn’t allow for my existence as a Black queer woman,” Navaroli said. “It was important for me, and for the next generation of people who look like me and who love like me, to realize … we belong in these rooms.”
MacGann said that he did not choose to blow the whistle on Uber to “cause problems for the company,” but rather to tackle systemic issues around lobbying and treatment of workers.
“It really comes down to altruism,” Mark MacGann said. “I was the one in the room. I helped sell a lie. … At some point, you realize, ‘I can’t live with this.’
“Credit: Diego Figone, International Journalism Festival 2023”
Deltour, who in 2014 shared documents with journalists showing large-scale tax avoidance practices in Luxembourg, sits on TSN’s Board of Directors.
“I think that’s the best option for whistleblowers, to keep anonymous,” Deltour said. “I really think this. Because it’s the only way to have no impact on your life. But in [my] case, I didn’t have this choice anymore.”
Obermaier, who reported on the Panama Papers in 2016, offered his perspective as a journalist who has worked with many whistleblowers. He said journalists need to remember they have a duty to treat whistleblowers — who risk their livelihoods to reveal information — as human beings instead of just a source.
“Society needs more whistleblowers,” Obermaier said. “And we [journalists] need to learn how to work better with whistleblowers.”
At the end of the panel, an audience member asked the three whistleblowers on stage if, given a time machine, they would choose to blow the whistle again. MacGann, Deltour and Navaroli all said they would.
“I know very, very few whistleblowers who have real regrets,” Deltour said. “When you know some wrongdoings, just keeping it a secret can be very, very painful. You feel much better when you talk about it.”
TSN Legal Director Jennifer Gibson also attended the conference.
The Signals Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded by journalists, lawyers, transparency activists and whistleblowers with the goal of supporting and protecting those who witness wrongdoing and share public interest information with the press.