In the online edition of Handelszeitung published 12 September, it is interesting to read how a Basel-based journalist, Seraina Gross, covers the complex and unusual issues raised by BMF’s 8-year campaign of defamation against Sakto and its founders. Quite rightly, she gave a share of voice to both parties involved. Indeed, this is the first time that a Swiss media has explored in depth the manner in which BMF have waged their campaign, and the implications this may have not only for the legal, but also the moral, conduct of an NGO.
It is easy for NGOs to sling mud at corporations. It is even easier for NGOs to attack individuals. It is easy for NGOs to attract and retain support in the court of public opinion. But an NGO’s leaders, directors, donors, and supporters should never confuse altruism with illegal behaviour and actions, such as those conducted by BMF.
The behaviour of BMF, during this particular 8-year campaign of defamation against Sakto and its founders, raises serious questions about the NGO’s governance, transparency, and accountability.
1. Who are BMF regulated by, as a Swiss Verein? To whom are they ultimately accountable… their donors?
2. Has BMF’s Board behaved correctly in their sanction of this 8-year campaign? Has it been properly informed by Lukas Straumann of the resources devoted to this campaign?
3. Lukas Straumann misinformed the public about the outcome of the proceedings before the Ontario Court of Justice. Did he at least inform the BMF Board or even its donors in an open and honest manner about the true results of the Canadian judge’s decision, i.e., that BMF had no reasonable grounds to believe Sakto or its founders had been involved in any unlawful acts?
4. Have BMF been transparent to their donors and supporters about the significant sums of money and resources they have devoted to a legal campaign in Canada that had no real chance of success and was squarely dismissed by the judge in February 2018? Indeed Justice Dunphy observed that “BMF have run a long and intense multi-front battle, which suggests very considerable financial resources have been devoted to their campaign.”
5. How can such an anti-money laundering and corruption campaign sit alongside the original mission of Bruno Manser? Indeed, do the BMF supporters know, and approve of, this change in direction by BMF?
6. It was only in 2016 that BMF’s mandate was extended to cover corruption and money-laundering. So how do BMF account for the resources spent from 2010-2016 on this campaign which was not in their mandate?
An NGO should not be beyond the law. It is time for BMF and Lukas Straumann to be held accountable for their words and actions. Their case has been dismissed in Canada. It is time for them to face justice in Switzerland. It is time for them to stop their illegal activities.
Sakto is asking the Basel Civil Court for an injunction, ordering BMF to remove their infringing content from the public domain – more than 1,100 infringing statements and over 250 articles and publications. They would also be ordered to stop repeating their false allegations.
Let’s be clear. This is not an attack on the NGO and its original mission. We simply wish for BMF and Lukas Straumann to remove their false and defamatory allegations from the public domain and to stop their misguided campaign against Sakto and its founders.