How to ruin a good reputation

Monday, March 27, 2006 at 0:06 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, Freedom of speech, Germany | 11 Comments
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If you have a good reputation as a champion of freedom, transparency, accountability and integrity, you would propably want to keep your own house clean of any suspicions of the opposite. If you are globally known to have spoken for access to information, the last thing you would want to do is to be caught with intimidating anybody who is publishing embarassing information about yourself. That sort of behaviour would be bound to ruin your good reputation.

Transparency International with their HQ in Berlin and 99 independent national chapters around the World has just such a good reputation. It has no doubt taken years of efforts by dedicated people to build up their good reputation. Much of it was sadly blown out during this weekend by the counselor and ethical adviser of Transparency International – Deutschland e.V, their German branch.

As I posted last night, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Marten sent an intimidating letter to Moni on Friday demanding her to remove her blog post from the web by Sunday midnight. He threatened Moni with a lawsuite that could easily have reached the magnitude of several thousands of euros as Marcel explains here. That is quite a lot of money even if you do not happen to be an unemployed young lady in Berlin.

So Moni thought it was better safe than sorry and deleted her original post. It is sad but very understandable. She did, however, post the censor story today explaining the background of this incident. By the way, the original post can still be read in the web, courtesy of Donalphonso.

As it turns out, Moni's friend, the single mother who was sacked by Transparency International – Deutschland e.V, also seems to have received mail from Prof. Dr. Jürgen Marten. The honorable ethical adviser and officer of the law apparently thinks that Moni's friend has been out of her legal rights to speak about internal house matters to her friend Moni. The next thing we propably will hear is that professor Marten is going to sue me. Be my quest, professor, I am too old a fox to be intimidated.

Does he not think that the good reputation of Transparency International was hurt enough by getting on Moni? Does he absolutely and unconditionally want to flush down whatever is left of that good reputation? Or does he not even understand that he just comleted a perfect PR disaster?

To be a bit constructive, may I suggest that Prof. Dr. Jürgen Marten and the manager of Transparency International – Deutschland e.V, Mrs. Dagmar Schröder sit down on Monday morning, switch all the phones off and talk this over? It would be a good idea to appear in front of the press in the afternoon and explain in public what they think this is all about. How about showing some transparency for a change? How about showing some integrity and accountability?

Moni herself seems to be slightly amused by my description of her photo appearence: "who does not look like an experienced person judging from her blog profile photo)" as well as Scottage's remarks here: "If she’s over 25, I’m under 25…and it’s been a while since I’ve been under 25." She says in a comment at Scottage's that she is 34. Honestly, Moni, I would have given you 24, tops.

Edit: As Marcel was kind enough to point out the cost of a trial that Moni would have risked is somewhere in the area of 5.000-10.000 euros, not hundreds of thousands as I incorrectly wrote. The error has now been corrected. Thank you, Marcel!


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  1. The problem is that these people become so arrogant they believe themselves above the laws they pledge to protect. I think your suggestions should be taken by TI, but I doubt they will be. Instead, they will feel that they don’t need to be responsive to people since they are above that level, and only down the road will they understand the ramifications of their lack of action.

  2. I am not sure about that, Scottage. Obviously, they can not start suing everybody in the global blogosphere. Sooner or later these people will have to realize that publicity is not made today the same way it was made last century. And shocking as it may be, they will sooner or later have to put their money where their mouth is and start acting in a transparent way. The sooner the better.

  3. But here, in a clearly parallel incident, will no one stand up for Moni? Will no one stand up for her freedom of speech?

    As I wrote in another comment (before seeing your latest entry), German bloggers are discussing how to raise money.

    I also know that some journalists have started to dig up dirt from the past of the ethics lawyer, Jürgen Marten. Weather they will find enough to make some interesting story is another thing. For sure he is an honest man and there will be nothing. The guy rose through the ranks in East-Germany – from a TV entertainer to a lawyer. Great career in the worker’s paradiese. And he has still good contacts to the left-wing party PDS, the successor of the East-German state party SED. If I interpreted one journalist correctly, then at least one is going to check if there are some Stasi (East-Germany secret police) files about him. On the assumtion that an entertainer didn’t become a lawyer under the East-German regime without the goodwill of the regime.
    Hannes | 03.27.06 – 2:01 pm | #

  4. Thank you for pointing this out. I had the same information at hand as I wrote my blog posts about Moni and TI-D. I chose not to mention it by journalistic reasons: I had only unconfirmed hearsay at hand and no chance to hear the other side. I do like to keep track on my own integrity.

  5. the TI-HQ is just a couple of miles up the road, is run by the same peolpe, its also another good place to start digging up dirt.

  6. Mickey, I am not out to dig up dirt. I just write about injustice when I detect it. But thanks for the advice, I’ll keep an eye on them. 😉

  7. Larko, the key word there is detect. after a bit of pro-active sniffing it seems that about 2.5 to 3 yeares ago TI-HQ lost an unfair dismissal case. two long tern employees were the subject of an internal reorganisation that was designed from the outset to eject them. One of them couldnt hold their nerves and settled out of court. the other held out for their deserved compensation. none of it was further published.
    there is also a roumor (sorry, perhaps someone else can follow this up) that an an ex insider was paid off to not publish a book about the internal goings on at the HQ.

  8. Mickey, it would be interesting to get further information about this matter. As a card carrying member of IFJ through the Estonian Journalist Federation I can assure that I will not disclose my confidential sources. Just as TI, I encourage whistle blowers with the difference that I really do mean it. 😉

  9. well, if you include a smiley after writing you ‘mean it’ then its difficult to take you seriously. however as not being an internal neither past nor present i am not a whistle blower. but congratulations on digging up their own phrasiology.
    knowing the reputation of the person involved i myself have difficulty in believing that he succumed to being ‘paid off’ — just look for high people in the UN with previous connections to TI. clear, is that he made a rather sudden cessation of his involvment with TI. i have it that he was rather upset with the senior leadership at TI, and continued to gether negative evidence after his departure.
    how much of this he would be prepared to confirm is another matter, as there seems to be a ‘halo’ surrounding TI, in that people seem reluctant to critisise an outwardly inscrutable oragisation for fear that it reflects badly upon themselves. note that i write for the plural in the leat sentanse.

  10. Mickey, I do not understand the purpose of a smiley the way that it would suggest that the written words around it should not be taken seriously. In this case, I included the smiley to display a positive message to whistle blowers and the key word in the sentence was “encourage”.

    It is important that there are watchdogs like TI to controll the established institutions. There is, however, the obvious danger that some of those watchdogs will eventually become a part of the establishment themselves. While TI still has an important coomitment in many parts of the World, they have obviously become too close to the establishment in Germany and elsewhere to be able to properly fulfill the function of a watchdog. At the moment, TI-D very much looks like the Animal Farm. (No smiley here but you may imagine which one I would have picked.)

  11. […] by far most read of these 500 posts used to be How to ruin a good reputation which I wrote almost exactly a year ago. I was pretty sure that the record would stand but little […]

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