2016-05-10

World Press Freedom Index, Release of Panama Papers Database

Infographic: World press freedom visualised | Statista
     Source: Statista

Above: The Reporters Without Borders (RSF.org) 2016 World Press Freedom Index shows the state of world press freedom around the world with Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan named as the nations with the tightest media restrictions. Global press freedom has fallen almost four percent since last year. This chart was featured in this article in the Independent.

State of the freedom of the press 2016 source: Statista
One basic precondition for democratic societies to function is the freedom of the press. The NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF.org) seldom has good news when it comes to publishing its yearly World Press Freedom Index. This year’s index “shows that there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels”--RSF.org. See also FIPP.com article here.
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Release of Panama Papers Database
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released on May 9 at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 UTC), a searchable database with information on more than 200,000 offshore entities that are part of the Panama Papers investigation https://panamapapers.icij.org/.

The database is published at https://offshoreleaks.icij.org.

According to ICIJ:
The data comes from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, one of the top players in the offshore world, and includes information about companies, trusts, foundations and funds incorporated in 21 tax havens, from Hong Kong to Nevada in the United States. It links to people in more than 200 countries and territories. The interactive database also includes information about more than 100,000 additional companies that were part of the 2013 ICIJ Offshore Leaks investigation. The database will not include records of bank accounts and financial transactions, emails and other correspondence, passports and telephone numbers. The selected and limited information is being published in the public interest. Meanwhile ICIJ, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung which received the leak, and other global media partners, including several new outlets in countries where ICIJ has not yet been able to report, will continue to investigate and publish stories in the weeks and months to come.

The Panama Papers investigation revealed the secret offshore dealings of world leaders and other politicians as well as criminals and celebrities. It exposed the role of big banks in facilitating secrecy and tax evasion and avoidance. And it showed how companies and individuals blacklisted in the U.S. and elsewhere for their links to terrorism, drug trafficking and other crimes were able to do business through offshore jurisdictions. In the U.S., where several states act as tax havens for people from all over the world, President Barack Obama commented on the Panama Papers revelations and said global tax avoidance facilitated by secrecy jurisdictions is “a huge problem.” The president added that “a lot of it is legal, but that’s exactly the problem. It’s not that they’re breaking the laws, it’s that the laws are so poorly designed.”


Panama Papers Source - John Doe Statement | ICIJ.org: "... I, however, would be willing to cooperate with law enforcement to the extent that I am able. That being said, I have watched as one after another, whistleblowers and activists in the United States and Europe have had their lives destroyed by the circumstances they find themselves in after shining a light on obvious wrongdoing. Edward Snowden is stranded in Moscow, exiled due to the Obama administration’s decision to prosecute him under the Espionage Act. For his revelations about the NSA, he deserves a hero’s welcome and a substantial prize, not banishment. Bradley Birkenfeld was awarded millions for his information concerning Swiss bank UBS—and was still given a prison sentence by the Justice Department. Antoine Deltour is presently on trial for providing journalists with information about how Luxembourg granted secret “sweetheart” tax deals to multi-national corporations, effectively stealing billions in tax revenues from its neighbour countries. And there are plenty more examples. Legitimate whistleblowers who expose unquestionable wrongdoing, whether insiders or outsiders, deserve immunity from government retribution, full stop. Until governments codify legal protections for whistleblowers into law, enforcement agencies will simply have to depend on their own resources or on-going global media coverage for documents. In the meantime, I call on the European Commission, the British Parliament, the United States Congress, and all nations to take swift action not only to protect whistleblowers, but to put an end to the global abuse of corporate registers. In the European Union, every member state’s corporate register should be freely accessible, with detailed data plainly available on ultimate beneficial owners. The United Kingdom can be proud of its domestic initiatives thus far, but it still has a vital role to play by ending financial secrecy on its various island territories, which are unquestionably the cornerstone of institutional corruption worldwide. And the United States can clearly no longer trust its fifty states to make sound decisions about their own corporate data. It is long past time for Congress to step in and force transparency by setting standards for disclosure and public access ..." (emphasis added)

See also: Panama-Leak Database Makes 200,000 Shells Searchable Online - BloombergThe source of the records -- a whistle-blower identified only as “John Doe” -- issued an 1,800-word statement last week, citing “income equality” as the motive behind the leak ... “Banks, financial regulators and tax authorities have failed,” John Doe wrote in the essay. “Decisions have been made that have spared the wealthy while focusing instead on reining in middle- and low-income citizens.”






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