Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Transparency International – A Company in Chaos Stalls while Moni Waits

Yesterday, after publishing my latest post, I sent of an email to 5 members of Transparency International’s media team, including their Director of Communications and their Senior Press Officer. Admittedly, I’ve never requested a response before, since I don’t consider myself a journalist, so I apologize if I sounded a bit like an idiot. But this is the email I sent.

Hello Ms. Clay (and others),

Let me start by apologizing for corresponding with you, as I am not a journalist, but rather a blogger. However, I am looking for a response to a series of posts on my web site regarding the incident in German revolving around the dismissal of a single mother over the terms of her new contract. You can read my writings on the subject at http://scottageb.blogspot.com/ .

Frankly, I’ve never asked for a response to a posting before, but I have received over 300 emails wanting to know if I had been contacted, since I was the first person to write on the issue in English. Furthermore, when MSNBC picked up the post on my blog yesterday, I guess it peaked peoples’ curiosity. My daily volume of page views has gone up 10 times since I first published the post.

Understand I hold no value judgment towards the decision not to retain the worker; two parties were unable to agree on terms for a contract, and decided to part ways. But I, and evidently a ton of other readers, would like to know if Transparency here in the United States has any reaction to the two letters by Dr. Jurgen Marten threatening to sue the single mother and the blogger if they did not immediately remove the postings mentioning Transparency International.

To me, and to other bloggers who visit my blog, this appears to be a clear case of using intimidation to stifle free speech, which seems to be exactly the opposite of what Transparency is all about. And we were hoping someone in your office would have some comment on the issue. I’m sorry to bother you, as I’m sure you have a great deal on your plate, but I do appreciate any response you could give me. Thank you for your time.

All the best,

Scottage (I used my real name, not Scottage)

P.S. – In general, I think that Transparency International does excellent work, and I am a huge supporter of your mission. You guys do great things for the world. I guess that’s why I’m so sheepish about bringing this to you.

Right before crashing last night, I received a response from TIs Press and Marketing Officer, Gypsy Kaiser, which was obviously not intended to come to me. This was what I received.

O.K. It seems this thing is getting out of control. As this is spreading beyond TI Germany, I think they need to provide an explanation. I am sure there is a perfectly legal –and not an aggressive- reason why TI Germany issued this legal warning. Let’s just find out what happened.

After some thought, I decided to wait to publish it until they had a chance to correct their mistake and provide a more complete response to the incident. After all, I’m not trying to flame this company who is trying to do some good in the world. But I do believe that such a company cannot be hypocritical, cannot support free speech and fight intimidation to the public, and then practice intimidation and stifle free speech in private. Sorry, to me that just isn’t right.

Well, when I woke up this morning I found this in my inbox:

Dear Mr. Scottage,

As you’ve probably noticed, I inadvertently included you in my internal response to your message regarding Transparency International’s German chapter. Unfortunately the details of the situation are unknown to us at this point, but we are concerned and are looking into the matter.

It is important to note that Transparency’s German chapter, like all other TI chapters worldwide, is an independent NGO whose work is supported by Transparency International’s Secretariat. Please do not consider this or my previous message a formal response, as we are still gathering information. Thanks for your message and support of our anti-corruption work.

Best regards,

Gypsy Guillén Kaiser

So basically Gypsy is saying that, since TI Germany is an independent NGO, we don’t really need to worry about it. We’ll get a press statement out at some point, but it’s not our problem. Well, I’m hoping everyone will make this Transparency International’s problem.

TI has not responded to Moni since the second threatening letter. They issued a press release last night speaking out against the woman who was fired, publishing confidential information on her. They later realized this and retracted the article, but not before significantly embarrassing the worker. And the worker is not the issue! Moni, and her right to free speech, is the issue!

Three German newspapers are running stories, and you can check them out (in German) here, here, and here. Two more are on the way today. And all the while, Transparency International says nothing to Moni, a single mother of a handicapped child that is spending her money on a lawyer instead of on her son. Stop this now, Transparency! Tell Moni that you are not here to disrupt her freedom of speech, and stop the campaign of intimidation. These are the values your company is built upon, you should practice them!

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Posted by Scottage at 11:20 AM / | |