UN: Right to know crucial for democracy

Exactly eight months after Marco Pannella passed away, we welcome the statement by Alfred de Zayas, the United Nations Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order: “Because the right to know is crucial to every democracy, whistleblowers should be protected, not persecuted.”

The statement by the Independent Expert of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights follows the decision of Barack Obama to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former US soldier condemned to 35-year military prison sentence for having leaked state secrets to WikiLeaks.

De Zayas added: “There are, however, many whistleblowers who have served the cause of human rights and who are still in prison in many countries throughout the world. It is time to recognize the contribution of whistleblowers to democracy and the rule of law and to stop persecuting them. […] Whistleblowers are human rights defenders whose contribution to democracy and the rule of law cannot be overestimated. They serve democracy and human rights by revealing information that all persons are entitled to receive. A culture of secrecy is frequently also a culture of impunity. Because the right to know proclaimed in article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is absolutely crucial to every democracy, whistleblowers should be protected, not persecuted.”

We hope that the legislation protecting whistleblowers will be implemented as quickly and extensively as possible, starting from the impulse of the United Nations where we are reiterating the centrality of the right to know as a core tenet of the Rule of Law. The leaks by Wikileaks before and Snowden then, took place in a manner contrary to the law. They should be welcomed as an opportunity to reflect and to ensure that violations of international law and infringements in the world of finance or industry do not affect the democratic life of countries and their citizens and taxpayers.

In this regard we recall what Marco Pannella declared in December 2010 on the occasion of the arrest of Assange:

The Nonviolent Radical Party is active at the United Nations and throughout the world, for the concrete affirmation of the right to freedom of information and the right to know as an integral part of the fundamental human rights. […] Despite the different approach between us and Wikileaks, we believe that not only freedom of press and information have to be preserved, but that Wikileaks be in a position to contribute to reform opaque political practices, or of “double truth”, in the exercise of power even the so-called “democracies”, which more and more resemble to “real democracies” as much as “real socialism” corresponded to the communist ideals. One example: the international lies used by Bush, Blair and Berlusconi to prevent possible peace in Iraq through the exile of Saddam.”

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