Protect the public interest
This is why our network members do the work they do. The ‘public interest’ is both a legal term in many jurisdictions and a term of art. For our purposes, protecting the public interest means protecting those who may not know they are at risk – individuals, groups or society at large. The public interest can be damaged by wrongdoing, negligence, deliberate or unintentional acts or systems that fail, for whatever reason, to take into account the common good, or the well-being or safety of other human beings and their environment.
Not cause harm
This principle is at the core of promoting and protecting whistleblowing. Protecting those who act to protect us – the public – from harm also means that our members aim not to cause harm in the ways and means we work to support and protect whistleblowers.
We believe transparency in public institutions is vital to ensuring they are accountable to the citizens they are meant to serve and protect. We also believe that accountability extends beyond government institutions, to private companies and to charitable organisations on whom the public also rely for goods and services.
We believe that individuals who choose to speak up in the public interest should be protected, understanding the risks and opportunities they face.
Accountability means that those in and with power must be able and willing to explain and take responsibility for their conduct. Whistleblowing is a key accountability mechanism that ensures that information that ought to be communicated is not blocked for whatever reason – deliberately or otherwise. Whistleblowing reminds us all of our responsibilities to one another.
Freedom of information
Freedom of information is a core democratic value which members of the network support and which public interest whistleblowing protects. Access to information is what allows citizens to hold their institutions accountable, deters wrongdoing and protects the public interest.
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is a core democratic value which members of the network support and which many actively promote in their work. The power and right to communicate information about risk or wrongdoing is part of the freedom of speech which ensures citizens are able to freely express their ideas, opinions and views.
Network members share and are committed to democratic values and principles. We believe that whistleblowing is a vital accountability mechanism that must be protected in a democracy. We recognise that whistleblowing and whistleblower protection is not a replacement for strong democratic institutions and the rule of law but that promoting whistleblowing is part of building and maintaining a strong democracy.
Right to petition and access to independent courts
The right to petition to public bodies and independent courts of law is a fundamental right for all citizens. Ensuring that whistleblowers who suffer unfairly for doing the right thing can achieve swift and appropriate redress that fully compensates them for their losses – financially or otherwise – not only protects the individual but sends a strong social message that whistleblowing is right and important in a free society.
The guarantee of freedom of information and expression depends ultimately on a free media. Citizens have a right to know and to be informed about matters which affect them and the conduct of those in power. While a public disclosure through the media will not necessarily be a whistleblower’s first choice, such a possibility must be available to give voice to serious concerns and to allow the public to demand action. Media here refers to its traditional forms of press and broadcast and to newer forms on the internet and through social and community media.
Rule of law
The Rule of Law, in its most basic form, is the principle that no one is above the law and that there needs to be legal and constitutional limits on power. A democracy must be underpinned by clear laws and a separation of powers but whistleblowing reminds us that democracy is, above all, an active relationship between citizens and those in power.