WIN Press release – New EU Directive on whistleblower protection

WIN URGES EU GOVERNMENTS TO TAKE NEW WHISTLEBLOWER DIRECTIVE SERIOUSLY TO STRENGTHEN PUBLIC INTEREST OVERSIGHT AND DEMOCRATIC ACCOUNTABILITY

17 APRIL 2019 – An international network of whistleblower protection NGOs calls on EU governments to adopt both the spirit and detail of the new EU whistleblower protection directive in their national legal frameworks, or risk further scandals and disasters that undermine public confidence in their ability to promote and safeguard the public interest.

Yesterday (16 April 2019), the European Parliament voted in an overwhelming majority to adopt a new law to protect European whistleblowers. The EU has raised the bar for all EU governments to lead the world in promoting gold standard protections for whistleblowers who raise concerns about wrongdoing or abusive practices that affect us all – whether in our how money is handled in financial institutions, the quality and safety of the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the trains and planes we travel on and the care of our elderly and vulnerable.

Landmark cases such as #LuxLeaks and #PanamaPapers have revealed how scandals that start in one country quickly spread to others, as the range of actors involved and the jurisdictions affected are revealed. Similarly, the European tainted-egg scandal started in the summer of 2017 in the Netherlands and Belgium and by 11 August, the European Commission announced that a total of 15 EU states, plus Switzerland and Hong Kong, were known to have received egg products contaminated by an insecticide harmful to human health.

WIN, whose NGO members advise, defend, and protect whistleblowers, has advocated for years for better legal and institutional protections in all European countries. The need for the EU to act across all 28 member states became more urgent and obvious as whistleblowers increasingly revealed serious corruption and the harm caused by wrongdoing and negligence that was no longer contained by national borders.

The EU legislation follows campaigning by WIN in a wider coalition organised by Eurocadres (association of unions) that included Transparency International Europe and journalist and press freedom organisations. The ground-breaking legislation must become national law across all EU members by May 2021.

WIN’s Executive Director and lawyer, Anna Myers, highlights the hard work of civil society, “We came together with different skill sets and missions from across Europe to advocate for stronger legal protections for whistleblowers and yesterday we got it!”

“But we also know that there has been reluctance, lack of understanding, and from our long experience in the field, often a determination to block whistleblower protection from being the progressive, democratic accountability mechanism it should be,” she said. “We still have our work cut out for us. The EU Directive is not perfect. WIN will continue to support civil society to collaborate across borders to ensure EU governments live up to both the detail and the spirit of the law.”

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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.