The European Council must ensure EU delivers on its promise to whistleblowers

The current deliberations of the European Council suggest that the whistleblower protection directive they are considering could risk putting European whistleblowers in more peril, rather than offering them greater protection.

europe_3068260bOn 23 April 2018, the European Commission published a draft law to protect whistleblowers across the EU. A door was flung open that had previously been locked shut. Like our members and associates in the whistleblower protection community, the Whistleblowing International Network (WIN) welcomed the fact that EU was finally moving to provide a solid statutory basis on which member states would have to protect whistleblowers. But on a second look, it turned out the draft directive made basic but fundamental mistakes. It is from these errors that we have all been scrambling to recover.

Fortunately, JURI, the legal affairs Committee of the EP, the lead parliamentary committee in charge of responding to the draft rose to the challenge and did a lot to improve and strengthen the whistleblower protection draft. If all the Committee’s amendments are adopted, the EU will have a strong foundation for protecting whistleblowers and protecting the public interest for years to come.

However, the main mistake, which the EU Council seems set to embrace, is that the draft reinforces employer control over the reporting of wrongdoing. It does so by making it a requirement for all those in a work-based relationship to report their concern to their employer first. With a three-month imposed time-lag and a requirement to use the channels employers set up, it is akin to legislating an obstruction of justice.

The vast majority of all whistleblowers stay in-house trying to do their jobs and ensure their organisations fulfil their roles responsibly. But those who perceive the need to go straight to the authorities should not, under any circumstances, have to guess whether a court would agree they were reasonable thinking that sharing their evidence with alleged wrongdoers would enable cover ups. This is the exactly the risk that a whistleblower protection law should help alleviate.

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A Loud Whistle: Whistleblowers and Journalists against Corruption

Grand Hall of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 5th – 6th June 2018

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WIN Director, Anna Myers 
A Loud Whistle, 5th June 2018
Photo credit: Zoran Raš for Pištaljka

WIN Director, Anna Myers and Tom Devine, Legal Director of GAP were among key speakers attending the international conference hosted by WIN member organisation Pištaljka last month. Focusing on collaborative practice between journalists and whistleblowers, the conference brought together international experts, politicians and members of the Serbia judiciary to discuss the contributions that whistleblowers in the field of anti-corruption and how various actors including journalists and prosecutors can assist in protecting and assisting those who are making disclosures.

The conference also provided an insight into the exceptional work undertaken in Serbia by Pištaljka in the eight years since their founding in 2010 as an innovative journalism platform for the protection of whistleblowers. Drawing on their founders’ own experiences of facing retaliation and persecution as journalists reporting censorship and conflict of interest, Pištaljka has published more than 600 fully documented investigative articles that have frequently played a part in launching official investigations into corruption.
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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 organisations 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.