Our Objectives

FrenchLeaks is a site dedicated to the transmission of documents of public interest and which concern notably, but not exclusively, issues of public interest in Europe. It was created by the online news journal Mediapart.

Its was established within the context of the international movement opened up by the digital revolution towards and extension of democratic freedom. Following the cross-border publication of revelations by WikiLeaks (see Mediapart’s mirror site, wikiLeaks.mediapart.fr), the democratic revolutions witnessed in Arab countries in 2011 have demonstrated how access to information, the application of the right to know, serves to hasten the capacity of peoples to take a direct hold on the course of their future. While secrecy protected corruption and injustice, access to information has revealed itself to be a force of freedom. Europe is not isolated from this new move towards greater democracy.

Our objectives are set out in detail below:

1. FrenchLeaks is a documentary base
2. FrenchLeaks is an instrument for alerts
3. Protecting the secrecy of sources
4. What concerns the public interest
5. In defence of the fundamental right to information
6. Placing journalism at the service of citizens
7. To illustrate the ideals championed by Mediapart

 

1. FrenchLeaks is a documentary base

FrenchLeaks provides the public with free access to documents after they have been the subject of investigation by Mediapart journalists, in a process concretized by related articles published online.
The documents in question have been either found by Mediapart journalists or transmitted to Mediapart by sources via the secure and confidential platform created for FrenchLeaks.
Mediapart shall remain in charge of the timetable between the transmission of documents and their publication on FrenchLeaks.
No document will be published on FrenchLeaks without having first been the subject of journalistic investigation by Mediapart. After verification, the documents concerned will be presented in their proper context and with appropriate explanation.
The documents submitted to Mediapart may be published on FrenchLeaks in their entirety, except when issues relating to the right to personal privacy or professional secrecy relating to an individual’s personal rights require otherwise.
All the documents disclosed on FrenchLeaks are published alongside the date of their posting on the site, with a summary of the information of public interest that they contain, a reference to the dates of articles about them published on Mediapart and a link to those articles (which are accessible only to Mediapart subscribers).
All documents published online (written texts, images, audiovisual recordings) can be freely accessed and reproduced on condition of including the source credit: ‘FrenchLeaks/Mediapart’.

2. FrenchLeaks is an instrument for alerts

FrenchLeaks allows sources to transmit to us, in all security and confidentiality, documents of public interest.
If you wish to be one of those sources, you should first ensure that the contents of the document(s) you want to transmit are properly concerned by the notion of public interest, as defined further below (see: 4. What concerns the public interest).
After that, you must take elementary precautions to protect your identity and your secrets.
Finally, you must then go to the section of this site entitled ‘SEND US A DOCUMENT’ and then follow the recommendations while respecting the sequence of the procedure as set out on that page.
Your anonymity is protected by the secured and encrypted technical platform created by our specialist technical teams.
However, if you wish to be contacted by Mediapart, and in this with the strict respect of your anonymity, you should indicate this during the procedure of submitting the document (s).
Once your documents are transmitted to us, they will be the subject of an investigation by Mediapart (authentication, verification, setting into context etc). If this investigation process results in justifying the disclosure of the information submitted, it will first be published by Mediapart in its online journal, and your document will subsequently be published on FrenchLeaks where it will remain from then on freely accessible to all internet users.
No document will be published online without having been the subject of a prior investigation carried out within full respect of the rules that apply to the journalistic profession.

3. Protecting the secrecy of sources

FrenchLeaks guarantees the total secrecy of the sources that provide it with a document.
Mediapart guarantees that it will rigorously protect its sources, whatever their motivations in providing information.
Mediapart will alone assume the responsibility for the public disclosure of information via FrenchLeaks.

4. What concerns the public interest

The public interest involves everything that contributes to the democratic process, and to the debate of opinions concerning the common good.
The functioning of States, of the European Union, of political and economic institutions and large international organizations is thus of public interest.
Just as are also of public interest the respect of common law, the application of tax laws, the ethics of government functioning, the deontology of administrative functions, the independence of the justice institutions, the probity of diplomatic services and activity, the transparency of financial and economic activities, the respect of civil and social rights, public health policies, protection of the environment, migration issues, etc.
The public interest is served by the revelation of acts of corruption, of conflicts of interest, or cases of inhumane or degrading treatment.
On the contrary, public interest does not concern anything involving only the private lives of individuals, or which involves a professional secret concerning a person’s individual rights.
Concerning public affairs, disclosure should be the norm and secrecy the exception. To make public what is of public interest is always legitimate. All documents that concern the lot of peoples, nations and societies deserves to be made known to the public so that they may form an opinion, to be able to make a judgment upon facts, to choose to act and influence the policies of governments and the conduct of world affairs. If, in a democracy, the people are sovereign, then the policies led in the name of the people cannot be the sole prerogative of professional elites, of experts and specialists who alone access legitimate information as if they were the private proprietors of the common good.

5. In defence of the fundamental right to information

Freedom of expression is a principle that is of constitutional value. It presupposes that citizens are freely informed, that they can freely receive and look for information. It is the first liberty upon which democratic societies are founded. It cannot be violated without an exceptionally grave reason.
Numerous international engagements to which France has subscribed protect freedom of expression and, necessary to the very existence of freedom of expression, the right of the public to be freely informed. These notably include:
• Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations’ General Assembly on December 10th 1948, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
• Article 19 of the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of December 16th1966, which states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

• Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of December 16th 1950, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”
• Article 11 of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Human Rights dated December 7th 2000, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.”
In France, Article 1 of a law introduced on July 29th 1881 regulating the freedom of the press asserts that printing presses and the distribution of publications “are free”. The law was drawn up at a time when the French print press was democratized and this principle of freedom has since applied to all forms of news publications, without discrimination.
Article 1 of a law introduced in France on June 21st 2004, concerned with establishing the legal regulation of activity on the internet, notably economic, stipulates: “As laid down in Article 1 of law number 86-1067 dated September 30th 1986 relating to the freedom of communication, public communication by electronic means is free”.
A statute for the online press was established under Article 27 of a law introduced in France on June 12th 2009 designed to encourage and protect creation on the internet. For this purpose, the following was added to a law dated August 1st 1986 concerned with reforming the legal status of the press: “The term of online press service includes all services of public communication that is edited in a professional title by a person or legal personality who has the editorial control of its content, consisting of the production and the public presentation of original contents, of general interest, regularly renewed, composed of information that is in relation to news and which has been the subject of treatment of a journalistic nature, which does not constitute a tool for promotion or an accessory for industrial or commercial activity.”
Edited by the online journal Mediapart, it is the intention of FrenchLeaks to defend and demonstrate this fundamental right to information, the requirements it imposes and the principles that it includes.

6. Placing journalism at the service of citizens

The digital revolution has allowed for the extension and the reinforcement of the right to information. A universe of links and networks, the internet facilitates the circulation and exchange of news without frontiers or barriers. The creation of new press models is joined by the invention of participative media, in which readers are associated with the contents, allowing them to contribute, inform and alert. It is an opportunity for promoting a new alliance between journalists and citizens concerning the public right to access all information of public interest.
“Only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what’s actually going on,” wrote Julian Assange in a 2006 essay setting out the ambitions of WikiLeaks, the non-profit media organization that was to be launched one year later. It was an inaugural reflection on how the organization of massive information leaks into the public domain provided a weapon for the people against authoritarian governments founded upon a monopolization of secrecy. Assange’s text was intended to illustrate the extent to which the current digital revolution can accelerate and facilitate the global concretization of the ideals behind the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and notably its Article 19 which states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
WikiLeaks has taught professional journalists that it is society itself that can now grab hold of this imperative, can ensure and produce it, from the base to the top, without delay. The liberating potential of digital technology, which allows us to return to the authentic and radical promise of the origins of democracy, offers new strategies for the weak in face of the strong, in which the weak are no longer bound to subjection and the strong no longer certain to dominate. The technology in itself is not liberating; that liberation comes from the social use that is made of it, the practices promoted through it, the rights that are achieved with it, along with the resistance against it being wrested from the control of its users.
The digital media represent the site of a decisive battle between citizens and those powers opposed to a horizontal extension of liberties - rather than their vertical imposition of control. The internet, a universe without borders, a place of exchange, one that facilitates free circulation and an unlimited storage of information, is a formidable tool for reducing the secrecy with which the powers that be surround themselves in order to manipulate public opinion and to escape from public judgment. Above all, it allows each individual to exercise their rights, and even their duty, as whistleblowers. This paradigm change means professional journalists must re-think their role. Previously used to being the gatekeepers of news information, with a monopoly on selecting, providing and promoting news topics, they are now faced with competition from whistleblowers – citizens who can now publish directly what they believe is essential and legitimate information for public scrutiny.
But the unfolding events in this unpredictable new era demonstrate that there need not be conflict between professional and non-professional information providers. Rather, the changes demand that they work together, within a framework of evolving practices and points of reference. This is the ambition of FrenchLeaks: to be the laboratory of a new alliance between professional journalists and citizen whistleblowers, by giving the latter new means with which to alert public attention to legitimate information, and by providing the skills of the former at the service of that procedure.

7. To illustrate the ideals championed by Mediapart

FrenchLeaks was created within the context of Mediapart’s founding principles for the extension and reinforcement of the right to information in France. The terms of these were set out on November 24th 2008 in a joint text co-signed with Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans Frontières), the French-based NGO dedicated to defending freedom of the press worldwide. The text is called l’Appel de la Colline, so-named because it was presented at a gathering held in support of a free and independent press held at the Paris Théâtre de la Colline. That text is as follows:
APPEL DE LA COLLINE
The liberty of the press is not the privilege of journalists but rather the right of citizens. The right to information, to free expression and free critique, and to diversity of opinion, is a fundamental liberty of every human being. Without the freedom of news information, involving ambitious means and pluralist goals, there can be no veritable democratic debate. A true democracy, one that is a common regime for all citizens without regard to privilege of birth, education or wealth, requires that everyone is informed in equal manner in order to be free in the choices they make and autonomous in the decisions they take.
All the duties and rights of journalists come from this right of the public to have access to the facts and opinions. The first duty concerns the veracity of the facts. The first discipline for journalists is to seek information that is verified, sourced and placed in proper context. Their first loyalty is towards citizens, and this above any other responsibility, in particular with regard to their employers and the public powers.
To defend and promote this ideal requires independence, transparency and pluralism.
Independence means:
• The general respect of the moral right journalists hold to their own work, in order to guarantee that information is not reduced to being a commercial commodity.
• The imperative refusal to mix industrial interests with those of the media, in order to guarantee that providing information is the only objective of the economic operators [of the media].
• The absolute preservation of the integrity of the publicly-owned audiovisual media, in order to guarantee that neither the information they provide nor the programmes they produce are controlled by the executive political powers.
Transparency means:
• The proper, rapid and easy access to all documentary sources of public interest regarding democratic life and the lot of citizens, on the model of the Freedom of Information Act established in the United States since 1967.
• A broad protection of journalists’ sources, ensuring the right of citizens to alert them and inform them, taking inspiration from an excellent Belgian law on this issue introduced in 2005.
• The wide disclosure of all the actions by the executive political powers which have an effect on our public life, in order to allow journalists a free interpellation and the calling to account of those who govern.

Pluralism means:
• A limited and regulated concentration [of media], in order to avoid the establishment of monopolies and abuses by a dominant position.
• Equal treatment for the digital press and the printed press, in order to avoid any stigmatizing discrimination against the internet.
• The total recognition of the place of readers as commentators, contributors and bloggers, so as to increase the democratic circulation and sharing of information and opinions.
Any distancing from these principles would be a regression.