by Chris McGivern & SF Team, 28 February 2021
Introducing: Delphine Halgand-Mishra
Background: An expert on press freedom and advocate for journalists and media rights.
Idea: Support whistleblowers, hold power to account, and increase public knowledge of tech industry wrongdoing.
We rely on journalists to break stories and expose issues that influential people and organisations would rather keep under wraps. Yet without whistleblowers - ordinary people who risk their reputation, career and freedom to expose injustices - journalism loses much of its ability to scrutinise power and hold it to account.
Power does not take kindly to exposure and will mobilise its resources with ferocity to ensure severe legal, psychological and physical consequences. Legal protections for whistleblowers are thin on the ground; anonymity is often the only real defence. But regular people are not equipped with the resources, experience, or knowledge required to protect themselves and their families from the fallout. If we want power and influence to be accountable, we must provide whistleblowers with a more substantial safety net.
Delphine Halgand-Mishra is the Founding Executive Director of The Signals Network: a nonprofit she started in 2017 to help newsrooms work safely and effectively with whistleblowers and maximise the impact of their investigations. She provides unique support services and resources for whistleblowers and helps them navigate hostile legal environments in which they find themselves.
The Signals Network currently provides tailored safety nets for two dozen sources who have provided vital information on many important stories in newspapers from across the political divide. Remarkably, Delphine has achieved this as the organisation’s only full-time employee. Her fellowship is an opportunity to develop capacity, expand into other countries, and shift priority towards one of the most pressing issues of our time: the growing influence of technology companies on our lives, thoughts, and democracies.
“I started working with whistleblowers in my previous role, as US Director of Reporters Sans Frontieres,” explains Delphine. “When a journalist is in jail, they have the backing of a vast coalition of organisations to defend them. But when the source of information is in prison, there is no help. So I started The Signals Network with Gilles Raymond, from scratch, to provide whistleblowers with a protection programme and legal and psychological support.
“Tech companies are the major powers of today, and our democracies have a growing dependence on issues like artificial intelligence and big data. We need to hold these private companies accountable. To do this, we need to engage with technology workers, who are the source of all major stories of alleged wrongdoing by these companies. There is a huge need to empower workers and provide them with the right level of support.”
Delphine Halgand-Mishra: “In just three years since the creation of The Signals Network, we demonstrated that our concept works, and now it’s time to strengthen and develop it by bringing in more help and expertise. The fellowship will help many tech whistleblowers increase public knowledge of wrongdoing by tech companies and social problems created by their activities. I hope The Signals Network becomes the trusted place for them and the media to come together for the public interest.
“The open aspect of the Foundation is super unique. I have never theorised about what I do as an illustration of openness, but getting this fellowship has made me realise we built The Signals Network with open principles at its heart. We bring journalists together with human rights activists, lawyers and whistleblowers to share knowledge and achieve our goals. I hope to spread that thinking of transparency, collaboration and empowerment during this fellowship.”
Historically, society has significantly benefited from whistleblowers but given little back in return. It is time for that to change. Whistleblowers are ordinary people unequipped to deal with the life-changing consequences of acting on their conscience. We cannot demand accountability around the critical social issues of our times without supporting those who provide it.
Delphine is the person you want in your corner if you are brave enough to speak out and expose imbalances of power, injustice and corruption. She has built this concept from nothing, using her real-world experience, reputation and wide-reaching network to great effect. We look forward to supporting her as she focuses on supporting tech whistleblowers, expands into new countries, and develops The Signals Network’s self-sustainability to become less reliant on her unique skills and experience.