Partnering globally to support whistleblowing


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.

Whistleblower Protection has its Day at the United Nations

by: Alison Glick

Anna Myers, David Kaye, Aicha Elbasri & others addressing UN side panel on whistleblower and source protection

Anna Myers, David Kaye, Aicha Elbasri & others addressing UN side panel on whistleblower and source protection

The protection of whistleblowers and journalists’ sources took center stage at the United Nations on October 22nd, with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, delivering his report on the promotion and protection of these rights. Kaye, speaking before the UN’s Third Committee, which oversees social, humanitarian, and cultural affairs, emphasized the crucial role played by whistleblowers in protecting the public interest. “Freedom of information cannot exist only in specific documents…but must be real where it counts” — namely in legislatures, political institutions, independent judiciaries and among law enforcement officers.

Prior to his presentation, Kaye spoke at a press conference in which the first question asked focused on UN whistleblower Anders Kompass, a senior official in the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights who reported the alleged sexual abuse of children by French troops in the Central African Republic through diplomatic channels. While declining to comment on this or any specific case, Kaye noted that there is an issue with transparency at the UN when it comes to protecting whistleblowers and dealing with those who retaliate against them.

Article 19, the civil society organization that promotes freedom of expression and fights media censorship, organized a related side event before the Third Committee report. The panel featured WIN’s first director and current executive director of the Government Accountability Project, Anna Myers, UN whistleblower Aicha Elbasri, and representatives from other international organizations focused on free expression and protecting journalism sources. Myers brought together the various themes of the other panelists, noting the importance of whistleblowers to a free press and the inadequate legal protections that has led to the increasing criminalization of whistleblowing. In her comments, Elbasri noted the deeply dysfunctional UN system and processes that are meant to facilitate whistleblowing. Based on her experience as the former spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur who exposed the cover-up by mission officials of ongoing atrocities, she noted how the system of UN immunity leads to impunity for those responsible for wrongdoing. She called for external arbitration for whistleblower cases and the end to UN staff immunity for misdeeds. “The UN must lead by example,” she observed.

Elbasri and Myers were also featured in Vice News coverage of the report, commenting on the need for better internal whistleblowing systems to avoid the high price that whistleblowers often pay for making their disclosures. Complementing the Kaye report was a video produced by Human Rights Watch that highlighted the importance of the Special Rapporteur’s work by featuring whistleblowers Kathryn Bolkovac and Edward Snowden. Bolkovac, who blew the whistle on sex trafficking in Bosnia by police officers she was sent by the UN to train, talks about how she went to the press only after her internal disclosures produced no remedy. Snowden, the NSA surveillance whistleblower, noted that while whistleblowers need to become “comfortable with the idea of becoming a martyr,” depending on individuals to do so is not a long-term strategy for a society that wants public accountability.

Report by UN Special Rapprteaur Calls for Increased Whistleblower Protections

David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression

David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression

by Alison Glick

The new report by Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression at the United Nations, David Kaye, adds to the growing call for increased whistleblower protections as necessary to strengthen and ensure the right to information and free expression. In his report, Kaye analyzes not only international and national legal frameworks used to protect sources of information and whistleblowers, but also the practices of global and regional mechanisms that seek to offer protections. Significantly, the report also singles out the work of civil society organizations as vital in these areas. Continue reading

The EU Trade Directive: Money talks — and buys silence

MWoods Dec 2014Martin Woods discusses the implications of silencing corporate whistleblowers when doing so has such wide-ranging negative public impact.

We live in a world where money has become the ultimate goal – where millions worship at the altar of the dollar.  Far too often the value of money has taken primacy over the value of human life.  In my own professional life, I’ve seen a banker’s appetite for cash outweigh the casualties produced by money laundering. The drive for profit can even outrank the importance of food safety, and the need to increase market share and revenue leads to compromised research, as some drug companies trade health for wealth.  The obsession with balancing the books sees standards drop in care homes and hospitals, where all too often the welfare of the elderly and vulnerable is placed in the hands of low cost, untrained, people.  The examples worldwide are too numerous to relate and too depressing in their similarity.

The proposed EU Trade Directive[1] appears to codify this creed.  It has been proposed by the EU Commission[2] and is supported by Member States. Of course support also comes from the new cult leaders — the executives of big business who have a lot to gain and a lot to lose. The same executives who worship the underlying assumption that greed is a legitimate value and that whistleblowing must be punished, have lobbied for such laws that protect their creed.  Aided by their lawyers – who long ago sold their souls – these money mad, power men have sought to silence those who speak out against them.  Through the Trade Directive[3], the executives appear to have persuaded European politicians that employees who externally report corporate “information” – some of which could easily point to criminality – should themselves be guilty of a crime.  Just when the public needs more information than ever, to hold to account those responsible for corporate conduct in multinationals and banks, or for the activities of governments cooperating across borders, the EU Trade Directive appears to deliver the exact opposite. Continue reading

Statement on 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Malaysia


Certain WIN affiliates and partners will be participating in next week’s International Anti-Corruption Conference in Malaysia. We do so to highlight the need for serious anti-corruption efforts globally, and to support our partners in Malaysia who are working under difficult circumstances to fight corruption in their country. We also support our partners’ decisions not to participate in the conference if they determine that is the best course of action for them.  We endorse statements made by TI Malaysia in the run-up to the conference about the ongoing corruption scandal involving Malaysia’s Prime Minister Rajib Razak. These statements call for independent and credible investigations into the allegations, guarantees of and respect for press freedom, and robust action against cross-border corruption. WIN was founded to address the need for cross-border cooperation to protect whistleblowers precisely because we recognized the transnational nature of the corruption they expose.

We look forward to sharing our ideas and hearing those of others on whistleblower protection and the role of investigative journalism in fighting fraud and abuse.

If you see something, say something – unless we don’t want you to

by Alison Glick

Australian detention facility on Papa New Guinea

Australian detention facility on Papa New Guinea

It shouldn’t be a crime to report a crime, but increasingly it is.

From the land Down Under to the U.S. hinterland, whistleblowers are being threatened with prosecution for exposing abuses in both the public and private sectors – a phenomenon that bodes ill for holding authorities accountable and for protecting basic rights to free speech and information.

The push to criminalize employees and interested citizens documenting and reporting abuses, illegality, and threats to public safety continues to gain momentum, as do efforts to resist the crackdown. It seems that the mantra “If you see something, say something” applies only in certain situations, and most assuredly not in ones that embarrass governments or narrow their corporate benefactors’ profit margins. Continue reading

Whistleblowing Protection in the Netherlands: Latest Developments

Rik van Steenbergen is Policy Advisor Labour Quality/Employment Law with the Dutch Federation of Trade Unions (FNV) which has actively supported public interest whistleblowing in the Netherlands for many years.

The Dutch approach to regulation in practically all spheres of social life is a very pragmatic one: an issue is raised and debated, a consensus is sought, a policy is set out on a limited scale, and after evaluation it gets implemented more broadly.  Then it is evaluated and amended again.

Whistleblowing is an issue that has been taken very seriously in the Netherlands and much debated over the last 15 years. The Dutch term for whistleblower, introduced by professor Mark Bovens in 1987, is ‘klokkenluider’, meaning bell-ringer. Continue reading

Developments in Swiss Whistleblowing Law Demonstrate Impact of Civil Society


The Swiss government was on track to pass whistleblowing legislation that could have harmed whistleblowers. Dr. Yasmine Motarjemi and Alison Glick explain how input from advocates, whistleblowers and civil society changed the course of that legislation. On May 15, Le News published this op/ed, which WIN republishes  with permission here

International Whistleblowing Week Starts Today

The article below has been reproduced with permission from  Please see European events at the end of the Article.

Our Chance to Aid and Encourage Whistleblowers

We would know much less about what our governments do were it not for those who are part of our governments – until something becomes too horrible for their moral threshold – who see a means available to inform the public. What this fact says about the proportion of governmental activity that is shameful is worth considering.

Whistleblowers in general have the broad support of the public. Even their biggest enemies got into office by falsely promising to defend and honor them. But individual whistleblowers are often effectively demonized by the corporate media while being persecuted and prosecuted by the government they have assisted.

Continue reading

What next for UK whistleblowers?


With the first all-Conservative cabinet since the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) was enacted, Public Concern at Work – the UK’s Whistleblowing Charity – asks what the future holds for whistleblower protection in the UK.

Cathy James, Chief Executive (London). Here at Public Concern at Work we are geared up to continue  our campaign to reform the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) as well as seeking much needed clarity in other areas that impact on workplace freedom of speech.

While PIDA is a rare example (globally) of a whistleblower protection law that is broad in scope, it is in need of reform. This is why we set up an independent commission in February 2013, to oversee a public consultation and gather evidence to examine the state of whistleblowing in the UK, including the effectiveness of PIDA.

Continue reading

Hopes are High for New Serbian Whistleblower Law

SErbiaFlag We are pleased to present an analysis of this important new law by one of WIN’s founding members. Bea Edwards is the International Program and Executive Director of the Government Accountability Project.

As noted in the October post by Serbian journalist Vladimir Radomirović, WIN played an important role in helping to strengthen the Serbian whistleblowing law that will take effect 5 June  2015.  WIN Director Anna Myers was involved in early discussions organized by the Serbian Information Commissioner as the formal task of drafting the law began but most importantly, legal and practice knowledge was shared by experts inside and outside of the country via the WIN network throughout the process.  In 2014, Ms. Myers coordinated a letter from WIN’s founding members to Serbian parliamentarians recommending some additional changes to strengthen the law. One of the suggestions – allowing the Anti-Corruption Agency to continue playing an early role in protecting whistleblowers – was heeded.
Continue reading