Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks at the Hallam Conference Center in London, England in 2019. (Toby Melville / Reuters)

These proud journalists trade in stolen goods – and no doubt justify this by noting that the theft was carried out by wealthy people and public figures.

The the publication of the so-called “Pandora Papers” by a huge consortium of self-congratulating journalists would have been a useful step against corruption – if these journalists had put the fight against corruption above the headlines. Instead, they have sullied the names of a number of world leaders for no apparent reason other than seeking self-righteous attention.

The “Pandora Papers” were published Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and they detail the use of complex offshore financial arrangements by hundreds of politicians. In some cases, it is important work. For example, when a leader of a corrupt dictatorial regime loots his country’s central bank and seeks to hide the money abroad, investigative journalism has an ideal target.

But it wasn’t juicy enough for these journalists. They took on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, despite the fact that neither they nor anyone else had ever found any evidence that his own wealth was not legally acquired after he left office. They pursued the King of Jordan, as if it was shocking that the King had purchased residential properties in the US and UK – and again without presenting any evidence that he had illegally taken public funds. . They attacked other public officials whose main offense is that they are rich, such as Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who was a billionaire when he was elected. It never seems to occur to these journalists that one of the reasons wealthy politicians hide their money is to avoid populist appeals to voters, or petty, ideological efforts to tie that money up.

It seems worth mentioning that the leaking of all these documents must be illegal; in which jurisdictions can financial and legal advisers send private documents to journalists? These proud journalists are in the business of stolen goods, and arguably justify themselves by noting that the theft was done by wealthy and public figures. It’s an interesting moral code.

But by the way, the publication of articles in many newspapers – the Washington post is a fine example – is accompanied by photographs of the properties that make their locations easy to find for a kidnapper or a potential assassin. I don’t know how our moral guides to To post and other reviews justify this, but the real motive is clear: to spice up the stories with photos of luxury homes and compete with Lifestyles of the rich and famous. Tony Blair has been repeatedly harassed on the streets of London; now he can be harassed even more. Anyone looking for an opportunity to go after a member of the Hashemite royal family in Jordan now has a much better chance. The publication of such information was made to sell newspapers, not to fight corruption.

The need to fight corruption is clear, but so is the need to define it. Blair got a lot richer after he left office, but so did Barack Obama – and he’s probably the richest man of the two. If King Abdullah of Jordan provides safe havens for his family in the event of future problems with family funds and legal accounts abroad, who can blame him? What these investigative journalists have done is grab the publicity for themselves at the cost of confusing what is corruption and what is not. They will undoubtedly win all kinds of awards for their work, but hopefully there are serious journalists more interested in tackling corruption than making headlines.

Elliott Abrams was Iran’s special representative in the Trump administration. He chairs the Vandenberg Coalition and is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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