International Whistleblowing Research Network Conference, June 18-19, 2015, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo_WBERInternational Whistleblowing Research Network Conference, organized by the International Whistleblowing Research Network and administered by Middlesex University – London, UK, in collaboration with the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative (RAI), and sponsored by Blueprint for Free Speech, took place on 18 – 19 June, 2015 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Please check event Agenda and List of Delegates for more details.

The second day of the event brought a special session dedicated to the region of Southeast Europe. The session was titled: Whistleblowing in Southeast Europe – cooperative planning session for governments and NGOs. This session, organized by RAI and Blueprint for Free Speech, was dedicated to the developments in the field of whistleblowing in RAI member countries and on finding possible links between the Governments and the NGO sector. During the session, RAI publication, Whistleblower Protection in Southeast Europe – An Overview of Laws, Practice, and Recent Initiatives, developed in cooperation with Blueprint for Free Speech was presented. For more details, please see this session’s Agenda and List of Participants.

Day 1

Prof. David Lewis (moderator) – Middlesex University, UK
Welcomed all the gusts and colleagues. He pointed out there are over 70 participants from 30 countries. Acknowledging South East Europe as a vibrant region in the field of WB protection, the Conference has moved from its traditional location in London to Sarajevo.

Mr. Marinko Cavara – President of the Federation of BiH
Mr. Cavara stated his excitement with the Conference taking place in Sarajevo. He raised the point of being member of the working group for State WB Law that is in force in BiH. He stressed his commitment to pass the Law at the Federal level as well. Mr. Cavara invited all experts to help FBiH in this process with providing comparative expertize and best practices.

Mr. Davor Dubravica  – Chairperson of RAI
Mr. Dubravica welcomed all the participants by stresing out the importance of the topic that has become for the region of Southeast Europe. The fact that whistleblowing and whistleblowers protection is an important and demanding area of work, was the reason why RAI engaged into projects related to whistleblower protection. Mr. Dubravica finished his speech by stating happiness of RAI to support the event and to welcome all participants in Sarajevo, where the Secretariat of the RAI is located.

Presentation by Mr. A.J. Brown, Professor of Public Policy & Law, Centre for Governance & Public Policy , Griffith University, Australia; and Director of Transparency International Australia
Organizational Procedures and Communication Practices to Encourage Internal Whistleblowing. Learning from Australian Experience, Mr. Brown stated that whistleblower protection is increasingly important for detection and rectification of wrongdoing in and by organisations, and enforcement of citizen and worker rights. Howeve, the form of legal protection remains contentious, with the search for ‘ideal’ or ‘model’ laws complicated by the diversity of approaches attempted by jurisdictions. Research covered 115 different Australian public sector organizations at all levels of Government to establish gaps and points for improvements. For more information, please download the presentation here.

Presentation by Ms. Suelette Dreyfuss, Executive Director of Blueprint for Free Speech, moderated by Mr. Mark Worth, Blueprint for Free Speech
Whistleblower protection laws in G20 Countries:the methodology of international comparisons of legislative and institutional context.
Mark Worth also informed the participants of the new South East Europe anti corruption coalition SEAC in development. The coalition is envisaged to gather NGO, activists, new media, jurnalists and governments representatives.

Presentation by Ms. Constanze von Soehnen, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer, Corruption and Economic Crime Branch, UNODC
UNODC prepared the Anti-Corruption Tool Kit is to help governments, organisations and the public to understand the insidious nature of corruption, the damaging effects it can have on the welfare of entire nations and their peoples. Ms. Soehnen also gave an overview of UNCAC and the review process that is undeway, with some 100 countries already being reviewed. For more information, please download the presentation here.

Presentation of Dr. Kate Kanny – Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland
Whistleblowing in banks and the role of time – presentation was focused on time as a social constraint in the life of a whistleblower and related time as a resource in people’s construction of self-esteem. For more information, please download the presentation here.

Presentation by Mr. Radu Ionescu, PhD Candidate at University of Bucharest
Whistleblowing as risk reduction for critical infrastructure. Mr. Ionescu presented the role that whistleblowing can have in disaster management. The organizations establish risks on the basis of algorithms that are fed inaccurate information. Inadequate preparation leads to high risk of failing therefore WB can become key in flagging the risks. For more information, please download the presentation here.

Presentation by Mr. David Lewis, Middlesex University and Mr. Wim Vandekerckhove, University of Greenwich
Whistleblowing in the NHS: lessons from the qualitative and quantitative research for the Francis Review
NHS whistleblowing report based on survey conducted by Professor David Lewis and colleagues from Middlesex University with over 20,000 NHS employees. ‘Freedom to Speak Up’ review of whistleblowing in the NHS was published in February 2015. For more information, please download the presentation here.

Presentation by Ms. Angie Ash, – Whistleblowing in the wind? An ethical response to contexts of complicity in health and social care. For more information, please download the presentation here.

Presentation by Ms. Marianna Fotaki, Professor of Business Ethics at Warwick Business School: Whistleblowing and mental health: a new weapon for retaliation?

Presentation by Dr. Richard Hyde, Assistant Professor, University of Nottingham, and Dr. Ashley Savage, Senior Lecturer in Law, Northumbria University – Whistleblowing without borders: the risks and rewards of transnational whistleblowing networks. For more information, please download the presentation here.

Presentation by Ms. Flutura Kusari – Whistleblower’s rights in international missions: the case of Maria Bamieh and EULEX Leaks. For more information, please download the presentation here.

Day 2

Presentation by Mr. Tom Devine Legal Director for the Government Accountability Project, USA – Whistleblowing and the national security loophole
Mr. Devine elaborated on “sensitive jobs loophole” metastasizing rapidly across the US federal government.Agency by agency, they’re starting to make all their employees sensitive, noncritical sensitive. Organisations  where there are some of the most significant whistleblowing disclosures, will all be noncritical sensitive. The government is being transformed from the rule of law to a national security spoils system. Mr. Devine gave insightful examples from FBI and other organisations.

Presentation by Mr. Mark Worth, Blueprint for Free Speech –  Introduction to afternoon session on presentation of publication of Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative – Whistleblower protection in South East Europe: an overview of laws, practice and recent initiatives. Mr. Worth opened floor to representatives of different NGOs coming from SEE who attended the conference to present the state of affairs regarding whistleblower protection in their countries.

Presentation by Ms. Lenka Frankova, NGO  Bez Korupce Checz Republic – Presentation of the report About Us With Us
Analyses of whistleblower protection in the V4 countries and Estonia point to shortcomings in the legal framework that make it very difficult to provide adequate or effective protection of whistleblowers reporting unethical or illegal behaviour. The deficiencies of these laws have been analysed extensively. Despite that, all countries show a certain effort to strengthen the laws on whistleblower protection. For more information, please download the presentation here.

Whistleblowing in Southeast Europe – cooperative planning session for governments and NGOs

After opening remarks by Ms. Suellete Dreyfuss, Executive Director of Blueprint for Free Speech and Mr. Davor Dubravica, Chairperson of Regional Anti-corruption Initiative, this session started by presentation of Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative’s publication Whistleblower Protection in Southeast Europe – An Overview of Laws, Practice, and Recent Initiatives. The presentation was made by the author of the publication, Mr. Mark Worth, Blueprint for Free Speech.

This interactive session attended by representatives of governments and NGOs from SEE was an opportunity to share experiences across countries, discuss all challenges, opportunities, and effectiveness of measures for protection of whistleblowers. Having in mind that countries from SEE are currently extensively working on the laws and other activities related to whistleblowing and protection of whistleblowers, this was a great opportunity to learn more on different approaches to this issue, pros and cons of different measures, and deliberate on all obstacles they have. All participants agreed that discussions of this kind on a regional level are extremely important and that it opens door for sharing invaluable experiences, knowledge and facilitates cooperation between and across countries. Presence of NGO representatives made discussions even more fruitful, as they shared their view, challenged governments’ representatives with questions and presented their opinion on the activities taken by governments.

Moderator – Mr. Davor Dubravica, RAI Chairperson

Mr. Dubravica opened floor for countries’ representatives to present the state of affairs in their countries and possibly reflect on the content of the publication. He raised two questions for speakers to reflect on:

  • What do you see as main challenges and opportunities regarding whistleblowing in your country?
  • How could these challenges be overcome and these opportunities maximised?

Romania: Ms. Otilia Filip, Head of the Projects Implementation Unit at Anti-Corruption General Directorate, Ministry of Internal Affairs, presented the situation in Romania by giving a short presentation. For more information, please download the presentation here.

Bulgaria: Mr. Yavor Siderov, Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister for European Policies Coordination and Institutional Affairs, stated that Bulgaria is breaking new grounds on whistleblowing. First Law is passed and Strategy for implementation is developed. This is not a major step in a right direction but it is a building block for the future. He also raised cultural context as an important factor to be considered in Southeast Europe.

Albania: Mr. Idlir Peci, Deputy Minister of Justice, informed about the draft law that is currently being developed in Albania with assistance of experts from University of Utrecht, Netherlands. Albania passed the anti-corruption law in 2006 but it is deemed not to be effective since there was not a single case trailed under the provisions of this Law. The new Law is with the line Ministries for consultation at the moment and it is expected to go to Parliament mid June 2015.

The session was joined by Dr. Srecko Sladoljev, whistleblower from Croatia who told his story. He was at the Steering Board of a Public Health Institution when H1N1 virus broke out worldwide. He had denounced the lack of transparency in Institution’s decision-making regarding a purchase of virus vaccine, and said he thought the situation was likely to cause severe harm to both the company and the public, as the producer was accepting no responsibility for the potential undesirable effects of the vaccine. After warning the owner and the general public about these risks, Dr. Sladoljev was then suspended and banned from entering the Institution, with the explanation that he revealed a business secret about the contract between the company and the Board. Mr Sladoljev finished his presentation by stating that, although he had been subject to pressure and ordeal, he would repeat the same process again due to his conscience and commitment to public health.

Moderator – Mr. Bojan Bajic, Coordinator of Whistleblowers Protection Programme, NGO LUNA

Mr. Bajic gave an introduction to the discussion by stating that whistleblower protection Laws in Southest Europe are anti-retaliation laws and as such represent the first generation of laws. Consequently, the second generation of laws must be about rewards systems as well as protection. He asked the speakers to focus on concrete measures that they deem efficient in addressing whistleblower protection. The question raised for participants to reflect on was:

  • What are the most effective measures to protect whistleblowers and the main challenges in their enforcement?

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Mr. Mevludin Dzindo, Assistant Director of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption and the Coordination of the Fight against Corruption, gave a short overview of the 3-step process for granting a “protected whistleblower” status in BiH. A whistleblower in BiH can make a request towards the Agency or any other relevant body regardless of whether the employee claims that detrimental actions have been taken or only suspects that they could be taken within the organization. The most challenging step for the Agency is to decide if the whistleblower request was made in a good faith or not.

Mr. Dzindo presented a recent success story from BiH, first of this kind in the region. Namely, an employee at the Indirect Taxation Authority of BiH, after reporting corruption in the organization, got his contract with the organization terminated as a result of internal disciplinary proceeding. The Agency, who had granted the status of a protected whistleblower to this person in 2014, has determined that this was a detrimental action committed against the protected whistleblower and gave an instruction to the organization to reinstate the employee in accordance with Law on Protection of whistleblowers in the institutions of BiH and in accordance with the Handbook on granting the whistleblower status in BiH. As a result, the organization acted in accordance with the instruction, and the employee has been reinstated, and consequently retaliation against him was prevented. In the end, Mr. Dzindo stated that in BiH, financial penalties as a preemptive measure have proved to be effective measure in protection of whistleblowers.

Montenegro: Ms. Grozdana Lakovic and Ms. Marina Micunovic, Senior Advisors at Directorate for Anti-Corruption Initiative, pointed out similar context of Montenegrin Law on Prevention of Corruption with BiH Law on Protection of Whistleblowers which is administrative protection or protection in administrative procedure. Other main characteristics of MNE Law on Prevention of Corruption (adopted in December 2014 and will enter into force in January 2016) which regulates also whistleblowers’ protection are: broad definition of WB as any natural or legal person that report the threats to public interest that indicate the existence of corruption; protection that is guaranteed for broad spectrum of reported irregularities or unethical behavior (due to broad definition of threats to public interest that indicate the existence of corruption); establishment of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption as an external independent body for reporting irregularities and protection of WBs; possibility to report threats to public interests directly to the Agency without mandatory internal reporting to the organization which would have to precede reporting to the Agency. In that way, the retaliation against whistleblower could be prevented; reporting in “good faith” in the law is presumed and it does not need additional verification.

Serbia: Ms. Marijana Sarac, Adviser at the Ministry of Justice, and Ms. Maja Matic, Chief of Division in charge of complaints at the Anti-corruption Agency, gave a brief presentation of the current state in Serbia. Ms. Sarac stated that they have new Whistleblowers Protection law that is in force since recently. The law will provide whistleblowers in Serbia with more effective judicial protection, and speed up the response of the state and society. They have developed a Handbook for Enforcing the Law on Whistleblower Protection and they are currently in the process of training and licensing judges on the new law. Ms. Sarac pointed out that 900 judges have already gone through the training process.. New legislation provides that persons who report corruption or any abuse in connection with their employment, regardless of the status they have in the organization, cannot suffer any detrimental action. In case the whistleblower claims a detrimental action, there is a new procedural rule for judicial protection of whistleblowers according to which the burden of proof is on the employer to prove that the activity is not in causal relation to whistleblowing.

Croatia: Ms. Maja Baricevic, Head of the Anti -Corruption Sector, Ministry of Justice, explained the legal framework related to whistleblower protection in Republic of Croatia – stressing out that currently there is no single law that prescribes all instruments for WB protection. Having that said, she underlined, that WB are protected through provisions of the various Acts: Criminal Act, Labour Act, Criminal procedure Act, Civil Service Act, Trade Act and Data Protection Act.
Mrs. Baricevic stressed out some of most important WB protection instruments – banning of the firing of employees that reports the corruption and putting the burden of proof to the employers. Also, Criminal Act is prescribing up to three year punishment for the employer who fires worker for reporting corruption.
Currently as a part of developing new AC strategic framework (strategy was adopted in February 2015 and AP is expected to be adopted in July), she pointed out that AC Strategy and accompanying Action plan envisages activity that has the aim to analyze existing legal framework and practices to protect WBs. As an outcome of these activities, is is expected to determine if there should be changes in legal framework, or it will be necessary to take institutional strengthening measures only.


Mr. Radu Cotici, Head of the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative Secretariat, thanked Blueprint for Free Speech and all the participants on excellent presentations and discussions. Mr. Cotici announced future work and activities of RAI in the field of whistleblower protection.

Mr. Mark Worth, Blueprint for Free Speech, thanked everyone for coming and their invaluable inputs. Mr. Worth stressed the importance of taking the positive changes in the region as a basis for developing the work further.

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