Blueprint for Free Speech and its Indian legal partner Nishith Desai Associates have won the Financial Times’ Asia Pacific Lawyers Awards 2019 in the category of Innovation in the Rule of Law and Access to Justice.
The prize, along with a standout ranking, was awarded for the Perugia Principles, a comprehensive effort to help journalists work with whistleblowers in the digital age and developed with a round table of 20 international journalists and experts hosted by Blueprint in Perugia, Italy in April.
The authors then consulted with the broader investigative journalism, legal and academic communities to refine the principles, critical to working in a time where surreptitious methods can be used to uncover people who report wrongdoing and safeguard journalists working with their confidential sources.
It was the work of Blueprint Executive Director Suelette Dreyfus, a specialist in the fields of digital security and privacy, the impact of technology on whistleblowing and co-authored by Julie Posetti, an Australian journalist and academic, and Naomi Colvin.
With frequent reprisals against whistleblowers, and journalists becoming a target as well from governments, Dreyfus said Blueprint’s mission is more critical than ever in the battle against corruption, fraud, money laundering and to reveal the truth despite the risk.
“Free speech isn’t just a human right – it’s a corrective mechanism in our society when things start to go rotten. That’s why it’s worth defending with all the fierceness of a lioness protecting her treasured cub,” she said..
Dreyfus said she was particularly pleased with the award and the partnership that helped bring it, with the award note lauding the effort and citing how it helped journalists and whistleblowers work together to reveal wrongdoing and use digital protections.
“The work that Nishith Desai did for Blueprint for Free Speech really helped to enhance the Perugia Principles. The legal cases and examples they provided allowed us to bring an insightful perspective on the law across different countries to the Principles. This is helpful to the journalists considering how to interact with whistleblowers on this frontier of journalism, law, technology and ethics,” she said.
“Laws that protect journalists have not kept pace with advances in technology. Proper encryption of digital communication is a concern for anonymous sources and whistleblowers in particular,” the paper said in recognition of the Perugia Principles.
With digital footprints raising the risk that whistleblowers can be identified, we are truly in a different world from the Watergate days of journalists meeting sources in parking garages and dark places. The Perugia Principles was put together as a guide for journalists through this new territory as well as a safeguard for the sources they depend on.