Brussels, 12/02/2019. An open letter to the EU Council.
The EU is poised to take a momentous step and adopt a new directive to protect whistleblowers across Europe. This could have a dramatic impact on the capacity and ability of whistleblowing to work in all our interests. We know that protecting those who speak up in the public interest saves lives, protects our environment, reveals and stops corruption, and stems the huge financial losses to business and governments that result from failures to address wrongdoing.
It is vital that an EU Directive on the protection of whistleblowers protects the free flow of information necessary for responsible exercise of institutional authority. This is why we, the undersigned, have come together to urge the EU Council to do the right thing – and adopt the Parliament’s position on the reporting channels.
Protecting disclosures made outside the employment relationship is at the heart of providing real whistleblower protection. It must be understood that in doing so:
• It allows law enforcement and regulatory bodies to do their jobs properly;
• It is the vital safety net for protecting the public interest and the public’s right to know when organisations are corrupt or fail to take responsibility;
• It ensures employers take seriously their responsibility to make it safe and acceptable to report internally; and
• There is no evidence this undermines internal channels as the genuine first port of call for individuals;
• It protects freedom of expression.
As it stands, we are very concerned that the EU is about to agree a directive that will dangerously reinforce the status quo and make it even harder for individuals to report breaches of law and wrongdoing.
It is right that organisations across all sectors are encouraged to take steps that make it easier and safer for those who work with them to report concerns, but it is essential that competent regulatory and law enforcement authorities have access to the information they need to fulfil their mandates.
By making it mandatory to report to the employer first – and obligatory to use the channel employers are required to set up with only risky and uncertain exceptions – the directive unwittingly builds in information control systems that will both hamper internal good management and make certain responsible disclosures to competent authorities illegal.
If this mandatory internal disclosure regime stands, the directive will have abandoned responsible Europeans who raise concerns appropriately to their employers through their supervisors or normal management channels of communication, who disclose information to competent authorities who have the power and mandate to address wrongdoing, or who provide information to the journalists who investigate and report in the public interest. They will suffer. Europe will suffer.
We remind the EU institutions, in trilogue negotiations right now, that their promise to better protect whistleblowers across Europe requires taking democratic accountability seriously. Regulatory authorities, governments and businesses across Europe are actively seeking information from those who speak up so that they can better protect and deliver services and protect the rights of the communities they serve.
The EU has a moral and legal responsibility to adopt a directive that builds on the Council of Europe Recommendation and international best practice consensus that protects the voluntary choice of channels for those who disclose wrongdoing.
Access Info Europe
Akademikerne, The Danish confederation of professional associations
Anti Corruption International
APADOR-CH, The Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania – the Helsinki Committee
APJA, Association of Professional Journalists of Albania
ASEBLAC, Asociación Española de Sujetos Obligados en Prevención del Blanqueo de Capitales
Associated Whistleblowing Press (AWP)
Association for Accountancy & Business Affairs, UK
Association of Hungarian Journalists (MUOSZ)
Blueprint for Free Speech
Center for Independent Journalism
Centre for Free Expression, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
CFDT Cadres, Confédération française démocratique du travail Cadres
Corporate Europe Observatory
CREW – Centre for Research on Employment and Work, University of Greenwich
EPSU, The European Federation of Public Service Unions
Estonian Association of Journalists
Eurocadres, Council of European Professional and Managerial Staff
Eurodad, European Network on Debt and Development
Eurogroup for Animals
European Federation of Journalists
FABI, Federazione Autonoma Bancari Italiani
FAPE Spain, La Federación de Asociaciones de Periodistas de España
FH, Danish Trade Union Confederation
FIBGAR, Fundación Internacional Baltasar Garzón
FNV, Dutch trade union federation
Free Press Unlimited
Government Accountability Project
Hungarian Press Union
Independent Organized Crime Research Network for Law Enforcement Officers & Academics
Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers
Journalists’ Union of Macedonia and Thrace Daily Newspapers – GREECE
National Whistleblower Center
News Media Europe
Oživení o. s.
Panhellenic Federation Unions Journalist
PCS, Public and Commercial Services Union
Public Services International (PSI)
Reporters Without Borders
Riparte il futuro
Stefan Batory Foundation
Swedish Union of Journalists
Tax Justice Network
Tax Justice UK
Tax Research LLP
TCO, The Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees
The Ethicos Group
The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
Transparency International Denmark
Transparency International Estonia
Transparency International EU
Transparency International France
Transparency International Greece
Transparency International Ireland
Transparency International Italia
Transparency International Latvia (Delna)
Transparency International Nederland
Transparency International Portugal (TI-PT)
Transparency International Romania
Transparency International Slovakia
Transparency International Slovenia
Transparency International Spain
UGICT CGT, Union Générale des Ingénieurs, Cadres et Techniciens
Union Journalists’ of Turkey
Union of Journalists in Finland
UTC-UGT, Unión de Técnicos y Cuadros
VVJ/AVBB, Vlaamse Vereniging van Journalisten
Whistleblower Network Germany
Whistleblowing International Network