|The fifth estate
is a new entry this year
Idyllic lands without taxes, without transparency and
political opposition, all elsewhere.
Then a rude awakening for the scandalised public. It's all
legal and it doesn't just take place offshore but emanates from
the financial centres of the world: the UK, the Netherlands,
Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Hong Kong,
Australian tax commentator Michael West chides the
mainstream press. "The media ignores the real tax culprits," he
writes in his blog. "The architects of global tax avoidance
must be indulging in a quiet chuckle, a nervous chuckle
perhaps, because the media has once again missed the forest for
last year's Global Tax 50 entry for the International
Consortium of Investigative Journalists' (ICIJ's) work on
the Panama Papers, International Tax Review applauds
the journalists who toil through the millions of documents to
shine the light on intricate tax avoidance schemes hidden in
But the entry this year is for all the journalists who are
trying to make sense of the vast amount of information
unearthed by the ICIJ and who distil the debate down to its
essence: calling out governments and politicians as enablers
who obstruct tax transparency and institutional reform.
One of them was fearless investigative journalist Daphne
Caruana Galizia from Malta.
Galizia linked Malta's president to scandals revealed in the
Panama Papers, allegations which many believe got her killed.
"My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule
of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong
journalists," her son Matthew Caruana said.
"But she was also targeted because she was the only person
doing so. This happens when the institutions of the state are
incapacitated: the last person left standing is often a
journalist. Which makes her the first person left dead."
While the leaking of vast amounts of documents provides the
opportunity to see what individuals and companies get up to
behind closed doors, it is journalists who must use this
opportunity to tell the stories to the public. German
politician and former vice-chair of the European Parliament's
PANA Committee, Fabio De Masi, tells International Tax
Review that he observed some 'leak fatigue' in the
aftermath of the Panama Papers.
"Without tax [there is] no democratic choice over our
future. The public outrage over scandals such as LuxLeaks or
Panama Papers requires engaged journalists who hold governments
to account after public attention has moved on. But I am
confident that in the information age, tax dodgers will be
unable to hide," De Masi said.
This entry in the Global Tax 50 is for the fifth estate,
Daphne Galizia and all journalists around the world who are in
the line of fire for reminding us of our civic duty to demand
checks and balances for political power and money.