Welcome to WIN

Featured

Welcome to WIN the international whistleblowing network of NGOs working to support and protect workplace whistleblowing around the world.

We work in our different countries to protect those who speak up to stop harm and avoid damage to others – too often at great personal cost to themselves.

cropped-blowing-the-whistle1.jpg

We have come together to let you know more about how and why we do the work we do, to share the legal expertise and practical knowledge we have built up over many years, and to continue to learn from and support one another and others whenever we can.

Please explore our website and find out where you can get further information on whistleblowing in your own country.  If you are working in the field please request to JOIN in our capacity-building conversation or find out more about NGO membership in the WIN network.

Edward Snowden addresses second hearing at Council of Europe

The Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights held the second of two public hearings on mass surveillance and strengthening whistleblower protection on June 24th.  At both hearings Edward Snowden gave evidence by video link and in the second hearing, Anna Myers, the Expert Coordinator of the Whistleblowing International Network, also gave a statement.

Both witnesses pointed out that information declared pertinent to national security is typically excluded from whistleblower protections and right to information laws – both vital to ensuring proper democratic accountability. The impact of this carve-out is only just being fully understood in the US and European context but is not new to many other parts of the world where “national security” is used as the blunt instrument to silence dissent and any form of public interest whistleblowing from the outset.

In this regard, the Tshwane Principles on National Security and  Right to Information (formulated by 22 organizations and over 500 experts from more than 70 countries), which provides for a public interest defense, were timely when they were published last year. A public interest defense – which a whistleblower can claim on the basis that the information disclosed was improperly classified, relates to illegal activity, or where the public interest in its disclosure outweighs the interest in keeping it secret – is clearly vital where an unauthorized release of classified information or official secrets is automatically a crime. Moreover, such a defense is an important principle at the heart of whistleblower protection generally.  It represents another perspective on free speech that is fundamental to effective whistleblower protection.

A.Myers Statement.Council of Europe 24.06.14

 

Note: A similar version of this post is on the Government Accountability Project’s website – GAP is a founding member of WIN – see http://www.whistleblower.org.

 

Stop targeting civil society in Hungary

Stop Targeting Hungarian NGOs!

Since its re-election, the Hungarian government launched a campaign attacking the credibility of Hungarian NGOs and are striving to gain controlling power over their funding distributed independently from the government. We believe that a dynamic and independent civil society plays a fundamental role in a democratic society, as it is one of the key checks and balances to governing power. As demonstrated by Putin’s Russia, the harassment of the civil sector could easily lead to the criminalization of NGOs and could effectively hinder their work. We stand in solidarity with the Hungarian NGOs and call on the Hungarian and all other governments to refrain from harassing civil society!

Background:

After the widespread criticism due to the elimination of independent institutions, the dismantling of the framework of parliamentarianism, the opening of the second term of the Orban’s government in 2014 has seen even more challenges: new impetus was given to questioning the credibility and hindering the independent financing of autonomous civil organizations representing a counterbalance to the government.

The Norway Financial Mechanism (Norway Grants) is part of an agreement between the EU and Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein about funding projects in less-developed European economies. The Hungarian government launched its attack against the Norwegian Civic Fund (NCTA) at the beginning of April, only a day after its massive re-election victory. The NCTA is a small portion of the Norway Grants, which is distributed by a consortium of four Hungarian foundations, which have previously administered the grants with great success. The accusation is that through the four foundations, Norway is trying to influence Hungarian politics. Norway firmly denied the accusations.

When the Norwegian government rejected the charges, the Hungarian government sent agents of the Government Control Office (KEHI) to audit the Fund’s administering organizations. The government has led an escalating campaign accusing the four NGOs of political meddling that helped Norway disburse the grants. It said KEHI would audit Okotars, the consortium leader NGO, but sent KEHI agents to two other partner organizations as well. The foundations were threatened with the suspension of their tax number if refused cooperation. The legal basis of the audit is disputed by the administering organizations of the consortium.

In the past years, NGOs, especially those critical of or countering the ideology of the government (LGBT+ rights groups) were subjected to defamatory attempts. On May 30, 2014, an article was published stating that the government blacklisted independent Hungarian civil organizations that have benefitted from the Norwegian Civic Fund (NCTA) on the basis of their alleged political affiliation. In an emailed statement to Reuters on this day, the government said it had no intention of fighting individual NGOs, but it repeated the charges that the grants sought to exert political influence.

Civil organizations’ opportunities for legal advocacy and the room to maneuver are becoming smaller, and media publications may be henceforward constrained to exercise self-censorship because regulations of the media law curtailing the freedom of speech and judicial practices would hold them back from publishing articles criticizing the government. All these steps make Hungary resemble Putin’s Russia, where, with the silencing of the last free voices, all the defenses of the democratic state are being demolished.

According to Atlatszo.hu – one of the blacklisted NGOs: the scandal sparked by the Hungarian government over the Norwegian funding of local NGOs has escalated to the extent that groups advocating environmental concerns and anti-corruption are being targeted by the authorities. The only tangible reason to be found is that the Hungarian government doesn’t approve of funding being distributed to organizations, which they do not approve of.
As things stand, the organizations that are receiving or have received a grant are prone to face investigations from the authorities, with the declared intent to decide whether they were legitimate recipients of the Norwegian tax-payers’ money, or whether they were handpicked to represent niche political interests that go against the will of the Hungarian majority.

According to the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, another blacklisted NGO: These are steps in a series of government actions aiming to silence people, from ordinary citizens to the press to civil society, and prevent them from voicing any criticism against the government. An examination of government actions since 2010 shows that the elimination of independent institutions, the dismantling of the frameworks of parliamentarianism and the trivialization of opposition voices already started during the previous government cycle. Such measures include the Media Law, the curtailing of the Constitutional Court’s authority, the elimination of the institution of the independent Data Protection Ombudsman, the transformation of the election system and the means of approval and contents of the Fundamental Law.

As part of the government’s silencing efforts of independent voices, the editor-in-chief of one of the largest Hungarian online news sites, Origo.hu, was forced unexpectedly to leave his job on June 2. On the last week of May, the news site published a series on János Lázár, Secretary of State for the Prime Minister’s Office, noting that his recent spending of 6.500 EUR from public funds on travel expenses was presumably unjustified. In response, János Lázár exercised visible pressure. It is probably due to this incident that the editor-in-chief of Origo.hu, who was said to have resisted the political pressure exercised by the publishing company, was forced to quit yesterday. The editorial board of Origo.hu expressed its disagreement with dismissing the editor-in-chief and considers the conditions for continuing its work insecure. Since June 2, a number of staff members quit their jobs. The management of Origo.hu denied the accusations about political pressure.

Recommended articles, statements:

http://www.liberties.eu/en/news/putins-methods-against-criticism

http://norvegcivilalap.hu/en/government_attacks_hungarian_NGOs

http://english.atlatszo.hu/2014/06/03/hungarian-govt-targets-ngos-atlatszo-hu-is-also-under-assault/

http://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/transparency_international_calls_for_an_immediate_end_to_intimidation_

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/02/us-hungary-norway-funding-ngo-idUSKBN0ED1QW20140602?feedType=RSS&irpc=932

http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/06/05/dispatches-harassing-civil-society-hungary

About the constitutional de-constructing:

http://tasz.hu/en/news/hclu-hungarian-example

Hungarian whistleblowing case unfolds

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (Tasz) is representing a former staff member of the Hungarian National Tax and Customs Administration, András Horváth, who went public with information about companies committing VAT fraud with the assistance of the National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV) only after trying unsuccessfully on several occasions to raise his concerns within the Administration itself and to the Government.

This is exactly the type of case that all member states of the Council of Europe, the European Union (Hungary is a member of both) and signatories of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (Hungary ratified UNCAC in 2005) should want to get right. Hungary’s new Whistleblower Protection law came into force on the 1st January 2014 so Horváth, unwittingly perhaps, is the first to test the strength of the new law which Tasz already considers weak in many regards. An earlier whistleblower law called the Protection of Fair Procedures Law failed to make much of an impact not least because the Hungarian government never set up the agency the law envisioned to receive whistleblower reports and enforce the law.

But the description of what has happened to András Horváth so far – the police raid on his home and the court’s order upholding this action which Tasz argues was unlawful – does not bode well, at least in the short term, for those who hope the Hungarian Government will put its energies and resources into fighting corruption rather than attacking those who are trying to help it do the right thing.

For details of this case and the work of Tasz please see Why was the search of the whistleblower’s home unlawful? published today (7 April 2014) on its website.

Please note that Tasz and other important Hungarian civil society organisations K-Monitor and Atlatszo.hu are participating organisations in the WIN network.

“Whistleblower” is not a bad word….

Whistleblowing – speaking up in the public interest about wrongdoing or risk – is at its core an act of loyalty and concern for the greater good. The English term “whistleblower” has evolved from a  negative term connoting “snitch” or “tattle-tell” to one that is perceived as much more nuetral or positive.

Now more than ever, whistleblowing is associated with loyal individuals who try to speak up in the interests of others, including the interests of their employers or the service they are meant to provide. It is also understood that whistleblowers most often try to alert those closest to the problem first – their employer, their union, the person responsible, or an appropriate authority – and only go public with the information when there are few or no realistic or safe options available.

Whistleblowing is a democratic accountability mechanism and whistleblowers have saved lives and livelihoods, often with very little thanks or reward. Punishing and branding the messenger and paying little or no heed to the message does us all a disservice.

WIN members and experts have started to share the terms that are being increasingly used in their languages and in their laws. These highlight how perceptions are changing and how more positive terminology is being chosen or suggested.

By talking about whistleblowing internationally, it is hoped that a greater cross-cultural dialogue will help us consider why we might want to normalise the term.

When looking at the table below, think of your own language and the terminology that is used – perjorative terms instantly conjure up notions of betrayal and disloyalty but are often kneejerk reactions rather than a proper consideration of the facts.

Global Words — Whistleblower

Are you deaf?

We don’t need more whistleblowers

In this blog piece Wim Vandekerckhove of the University of Greenwich writes that we are no longer confronted by a culture of silence but a culture of deafness.

Using data from Whistleblowing: the inside story, a joint project from Public Concern at Work and the University of Greenwich Dr Vandekerckhove writes: “the standard initial response – 3 out of 4 – whistleblowers get is a deaf ear. That probably hasn’t changed in the past 20 years. What has changed however, is that there are now more people and more groups in society ready to support whistleblowers who find a deaf ear in their organisation. That support means various things because there is a myriad of groups – some are union reps, some offer legal advice, some psychological support, some broadcast on twitter, some give you an award.”

wimvdk.wordpress.com 4 March 2014

This is an excerpt from UK’s PCaW newsletter.

South African whistleblowers vulnerable

Gaps and deficiencies in law leave whistleblowers extremely vulnerable in South Africa
A word from Alison Tilley, Head of Advocacy & Special Projects, Open Democracy Advice Centre, South Africa

The latest PWC Global Economic Crime Survey for South Africa, released yesterday,  identifies a trend in the effectiveness of whistleblowers in reporting crime. Not surprisingly the trend is downwards – in 2007, 16% of crime was detected through  whistleblowing, and now that has dropped to 6% in 2013. The writers of the survey seem a bit puzzled about why this is, given that so many companies do actually have whistleblowing policies in place.We would suggest the answer lies in the legislative and other shortcomings in protecting whistleblowers South Africa.There are implementation gaps and deficiencies in the use and application of the existing laws which undermine the safety of whistleblowers. Those laws are themselves ineffective. This contributes to the lack of confidence in the ability of the law to protect people – ultimately contributing to the declining rates of whistleblowing in South Africa. Only 3 out of 10 South Africans believe that the law does effectively protect whistleblowers.There has been a steady decline in the number of people who describe themselves as blowing the whistle.

In 2011, 18.4% of respondents said that they had blown the whistle. This is down from 25.3% in 2007. We believe these drops in numbers of people blowing the whistle can be directly related to the perception that the law does not effectively protect whistleblower.

WE NEED BETTER PROTECTION FOR WHISTLEBLOWERS.

The Open Democracy Advice Centre is a founding member of WIN.

Press freedom essential for whistleblowers

Press freedom is essential for protecting public interest whistleblowing

Highlighted by Cathy James, Chief Executive of Public Concern at Work in their latest weekly newsletter.

This week we focus on the release of the World Press Freedom Index 2014. Non-profit organisation Reporters without Borders has released their latest index on freedom of information around the world.

Those at either end of the scale have experienced little change since the 2013 index. Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway. At the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is virtually non-existent.

What is striking about the 2014 index is how the poor treatment of whistleblowers has served to negatively impact freedom of the press in established democracies. Democracies that are said to have “sacrificed” information to national security and surveillance. The United States fell thirteen places due to its “hunt for leaks and sources.” The conviction of Chelsea Manning, the pursuit of Edward Snowden and the upcoming trial of journalist Barrett Brown were all cited as contributing to their decline. The United Kingdom dropped three places due to the pressure the Government placed on the Guardian following the publication of the NSA files and the detention of David Miranda, which may have suffered a further blow in light of yesterday’s high court ruling as Miranda’s detention under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 was ruled lawful. In his judgment, Lord Justice Laws said stopping Mr Miranda was a “proportionate measure in the circumstances.” Liberty, who intervened in the case, has issued this press statement.

Also this week, Edward Snowden’s lawyer claims she was harassed at Heathrow, Chris Grayling has been accused of trying to manipulate parliamentary answers, the Glendene Academy is investigated by police following whistleblowers’ allegations that Education Funding Agency financing was used to pay salaries and running costs of a private company, former whistleblower appointed as the country’s first patient safety ombudswoman and finally an overview of the most commonly reported ethical concerns in the media over 2012 and 2013.

Public Concern at Work is a founding member of WIN.

Privacy Statement in protest against mass surveillance

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) in Washington is distributing a privacy statement for email users to add as part of their signature line to protest the National Security Agency’s (NSA) unconstitutional surveillance programs revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. See GAP’s eAlert campaign.

“For anyone who wonders what they can do about the surveillance state, this is one very tangible act of protest you can perform today,” states GAP Executive Director Beatrice Edwards. “This is a reminder to both senders and recipients that dragnet warrantless surveillance affects us all. It’s illegal and highly intrusive in our daily lives.”

For those who wish to adapt the privacy statement to an international or a different national context here is sample wording from WIN – in English, Afrikaans, German, Dutch, Spanish, Arabic, Russian,Ukrainian, and Polish.

This communication may be unlawfully collected and stored in secret by national security agencies around the world including the National Security Agency (NSA). The parties to this email do not consent to this nor to the retrieving or storing of this communication and any related metadata, as well as printing, copying, re-transmitting, disseminating, or otherwise using it. If you believe you have received this communication in error, please delete it immediately. (English)

Hierdie kommunikasie kan onwettig versamel en gestoor word in die geheim deur die nasionale veiligheid agentskappe regoor die wêreld, insluitend die National Security Agency (NSA). Die partye tot hierdie e-pos gee nie hulle toestemming nie vir die herwinning of berging van hierdie kommunikasie-en verwante metadata, asook drukwerk, kopiëring, re-oordrag, verspreiding of andersins gebruik nie. As jy dink jy het hierdie kommunikasie per abuis ontvang het, verwyder dit dadelik. (Afrikaans)

Diese Mitteilung könnte durch nationale Sicherheitsbehörden auf der ganzen Welt, einschließlich der National Security Agency (NSA), gesammelt und im Geheimen gespeichert werden. Die Parteien dieser E-Mail stimmen dem nicht zu und auch nicht dem Abrufen und der Speicherung dieser Kommunikation und der zugehörigen Meta-Daten, ebenso wenig dem Drucken, dem Kopieren, der Weiterleitung, der Verbreitung oder anderweitigen Verwendung. Wenn Sie der Meinung sind diese Mitteilung irrtümlich erhalten zu haben, löschen Sie sie bitte sofort. (German)

Het is mogelijk dat de communicatie in dit bericht op onwettige wijze en in het geheim verzameld en opgeslagen wordt door nationale veiligheidsagentschappen over de hele wereld, inclusief de National Security Agency (NSA). De betrokken partijen bij deze e-mail geven geen toestemming daartoe, ook niet voor het winnen of opslaan van deze communicatie of welke gerelateerde meta-informatie dan ook, evenals printen, copiëren, herversturen, distribueren, of enig ander gebruik. Gelieve dit bericht onmiddellijk te verwijderen indien u van mening bent dat u deze communicatie per vergissing ontvangt. (Dutch)

Esta comunicación puede ser recogida y archivada en secreto por los organismos nacionalesde seguridad, incluyendo la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA) de forma ilegal. Las partes de este correo electrónico no dan su consentimiento a ésto, ni a la recuperación o almacenamiento de esta comunicación ni los metadatos relacionados, así como tampoco a la impresión, copia, re-transmisión , difusión, u otra manera de usarla. Si usted cree que ha recibido este mensaje por error, por favor bórrelo inmediatamente. (Spanish)

هذا التراسل يمكن أن يكون مرصودا  وخزنا بشكل سري وغير قانوني من جانب مختلف وكالات الأمن القومي في العالم وبينها وكالة الأمن القومي (NSA). وأطراف هذه الرسالة الألكترونية لا يوافقون على ذلك ولا على استرجاع أو تخزين هذا التراسل ولا أي من معطياته، فضلا عن طباعته، نسخه أو إعادة إرساله، نشره أو أي استخدام آخر. إذا كنت تعتقد أنك تلقيت هذه الرسالة بطريق الخطأ، من فضلك قم بمحوها فورا.(Arabic)

Настоящее сообщение может быть тайно и незаконно получено и храниться Агентством национальной безопасности (NSA). Получатель и отправитель  данной электронной переписки не дают согласия на получение и хранение данного сообщения и любых других соответствующих метаданных, а также печать, копирование, повторную передачу, распространение или иное их использование. Если Вы считаете, что получили это сообщение по ошибке, пожалуйста, удалите его немедленно. (Russian)

Це повідомлення  може бути незаконно таємно отриманно і зберігатися  Агентством національної безпеки (NSA). Сторони цієї електронної пошти не дають  згоди на отримання або зберігання цього листа та  будь-яких відповідних метаданих, а також друк, копіювання, повторну передачу, розповсюдження або  використання їх іншим чинном. Якщо Ви вважаєте, що отримали це повідомлення помилково, будь ласка, видаліть його негайно. (Ukrainian)

Treść niniejszej korespondencji może być przedmiotem bezprawnego i niejawnego gromadzenia oraz przechowywania przez agencje bezpieczeństwa różnych krajów, w tym Agencję Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego USA (NSA). Nadawcy oraz adresaci niniejszego e-maila nie wyrażają na to zgody, podobnie na gromadzenie lub przechowywanie zawartych w nim treści jak również wszelkich meta-danych z nim związanych, a także na drukowanie, kopiowanie, re-transmitowanie, rozpowszechnianie lub jakiekolwiek inne jego użycie. Osoby, które niniejszą korespondencję otrzymały przez pomyłkę, proszone są o jej niezwłoczne usunięcie. (Polish)


Please note that GAP is a founding member of WIN and has been promoting corporate and government accountability by protecting whistleblowers since 1977.

Second note, if you can provide translations in other languages please let us know through the JOIN page and we will update this post accordingly.

Whistleblower protection in long-awaited EU Anti-Corruption Report

It is important that the European Union openly addresses corruption and vital that it does so in the spirit of democratic values. The new EC/EU Report speaks briefly about whistleblower protection and states that it is about encouraging a culture of integrity in order to overcome reluctance and fear. While this statement is welcome it is not enough. Facilitating a workplace culture of openness for those come across a risk of harm or malpractice such that they are able to speak up early and safely requires a fundamental commitment by employers, organisations and authorities to heed the information that is provided. Further, while most whistleblowers (people like you and me) would only ever consider speaking out publicly as a last resort, whistleblowing is ultimately about public accountability. In European democracies this should not be difficult to discuss in real and practical terms.

Whistleblower protection is more than codifying “processes within public administrations to allow official channels for reporting” (see page 20 of Report). Whistleblowing laws need to cover the private sector and allow for disclosures to independent authorities and ultimately in the public domaine, if they are to be effective in promoting accountability. If EU member states are serious about tackling corruption or indeed preventing environmental damage, deterring financial malpractice, saving lives in hospitals, and stopping cross-border trafficking – they must do something to change the status quo. It is in the public interest.

EU Anti-Corruption Report