Partnering globally to support whistleblowing

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WIN Director Anna Myers gives opening plenary talk at International Whistleblowing  Conference, Amsterdam, June 2014

WIN Director Anna Myers gives opening plenary talk at International Whistleblowing Conference, Amsterdam, June 2014

WIN connects and strengthens civil society organizations that defend and support whistleblowers. The Network provides counsel, tools and expertise needed by those working in their countries to address corruption, waste, fraud, abuse, illegality and threats to the public interest.

CIA Whistleblower Convicted on Espionage Charges

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Jeffrey Sterling leaving court on Jan. 26th after his conviction.

The conviction this week of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling on multiple espionage charges sends yet another chilling message to those with access to information about government abuse, illegality, or threats to public well-being: If you see something, say nothing. It is telling that although Sterling went through appropriate channels in discussing with Senate Intelligence Committee staffers a botched operation targeting Iran’s nuclear program, he is facing possible decades in prison.

Much of the publicity surrounding this case focused on New York Times reporter James Risen, who refused to name his sources for the book State of War in which he wrote about the CIA operation. In the end, Obama’s Justice Department backed down and did not compel Risen to choose between testifying in Sterling’s trial or going to jail. The extended game of brinkmanship the DOJ played with Risen only gave press freedom advocates time and incentive to rally around Risen. It seems that the government made the calculation that sending a high-profile, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist to prison was too politically costly.

No such calculation played into the prosecution of Sterling. The government focused on painting him as a disgruntled, vengeful ex-employee who had been fired in 2002 after suing the CIA for racial discrimination — a personal smear tactic familiar to those who’ve worked with whistleblowers. With no actual evidence presented proving that Sterling was the source of any leak, the case against him was circumstantial: A disturbing fact when one considers not only the sentence Sterling faces, but that leaks by powerful men like David Petreaus are ignored, even though there is abundant evidence to prosecute. Indeed, some have speculated that Sterling’s only “crime” was embarrassing the Agency by revealing to the Senate committee responsible for overseeing the CIA that it had botched an operation.

While press freedom proponents may have won the battle waged for Risen, until that community and others concerned about democratic accountability bring the same energy and resources to bear in protecting whistleblowers like Sterling, they may ultimately lose the war. Who will risk decades in prison to talk to government watchdogs or the media about misdeeds with the specter of cases like Sterling’s (to name just one) hanging over them?

Read the statement about the Sterling conviction issued by the Government Accountability Project, a WIN co-founder.

WIN Brings our Work Together

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Dr. Wim Vandekerckhove writes about how WIN enhances the work of academics and others working on behalf of whistleblowers worldwide.

I started researching whistleblowing in 2000, tracing public debates about different “good reasons” to protect whistleblowers through legislation in around 16 countries. These were all economically “first world” countries that had or were in the process of developing whistleblower protection legislation. For my data collection I relied on internet searches and snowballing, with Public Concern at Work in the UK putting me in contact with the Government Accountability Project in the US, Open Democracy Advice Center in South Africa, and Whistleblowing Netzwerk in Germany. I finished my analysis in 2005 and the book was published a year later.

In researching the book I made contacts in the US, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, and Belgium. The individuals I met were working as auditors, legal advisors, ombudsmen, union reps, or were whistleblowing activists. I thought I had a good idea of what was happening “on the ground” at that time, or at least a much better idea than most of the junior academics I knew who were working on whistleblowing. In fact, my interest in researching this topic came from working in a family business with someone who had blown the whistle on a cartel — and whose business had gone under as a result. Continue reading

Council of Europe Recommendation on the Protection of Whistleblowers

On the 30th April 2014, the Committee of Ministers adopted the Recommendation on the Protection of Whistleblowers and its accompanying Explanatory Memorandum. This legal instrument is of strong persuasive value and places whistleblower protection firmly within a democratic and human rights framework.  By focusing on the public interest in the reporting and disclosure of information by individuals in work-based relationships, the Recommendation pushes the protection of whistleblowers beyond a mechanism solely to address corruption and ensures the focus is on public accountability.  Public accountability of those persons and institutions whose functions and activities – private and public – affect the well-being of individuals, society, and the environment. Continue reading

Why we need networks like WIN

by Vladimir Radomirović

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Vladimir Radomirović explains how the Whistleblowing International Network’s resources are helping him improve whistleblower protections in Serbia.

Journalists are accustomed to being the publishers of whistleblower disclosures, not the sources of them. But in 2009 that’s exactly what happened to a group of journalists I was a part of who blew the whistle on censorship and conflict of interest at the oldest daily newspaper in Serbia. That whistleblowing experience changed the course of my career, forcing me to rethink how I could best practice journalism. It also resulted in my association with the Whistleblowing International Network, which is supporting our work in Serbia to chart a new course for whistleblowers in our country. Continue reading

International Whistleblowers Conference brings together journalists, lawyers, and technologists for first-of-its kind gathering in Amsterdam

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With whistleblowing at the center of the world stage like never before, WIN co-organized a conference that brought together those professional communities whose work is central not only to whistleblowing but to the fate of whistleblowers themselves: lawyers, journalists, and technologists. WIN partnered with Network Democracy, Free Press Unlimited, Netherlands Whistleblower Advice Centre, and the Hermes Centre for Transparency and Human Rights for the first-ever International Whistleblowers Conference on June 18, 2014 in Amsterdam. Continue reading

Proposed whistleblower law provides no protections for whistleblowers

By Yasmine Motarjemi and Alison Glick

13053457-hand-print-of-swiss-flag-colorsSWITZERLAND — The proposed whistleblowing law that has been adopted in the Swiss Conseil des Etats, the upper house of parliament, will effectively silence employees who are best placed to report wrongdoing and threats to the public interest. The proposed law, which focuses on whistleblowing procedures rather than on the public interest value in the information, offers no protections for whistleblowers. It also prohibits the disclosure of information to the press, except when the regulatory authorities do not reply within two weeks to the whistleblower. The proposed law now will be considered by the Conseil National, the parliament’s lower house. Continue reading

Whistleblowing for Change

Blowing-The-WhistleIf you missed this conference last year … you are in luck! Click here for a half-hour “documentary” of the Whistleblowing for Change conference organized by Transparency International and held at the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin in March 2013. See excerpts from Mark Cohen’s terrific keynote speech (Office of the Special Counsel, US), Bea Edwards’ inspiring closing speech (Government Accountability Project, Washington – a founding member of WIN!) and get a sense of the panel discussions with participants from around the world. Continue reading