Whistleblowers will be protected by EU
In sharp contrast to the approach to whistleblowing being proposed in the UK (Whistleblowers ‘face full-frontal legal onslaught’, 13 February), last week the European parliament debated and voted for EU provisions to be drafted to protect whistleblowers, building on a draft law created by the Greens in 2016. While in the UK the Law Commission is looking at increasing the punishment of those who would seek to expose wrongdoing to draconian levels, in the European parliament there is support across the political groups to protect whistleblowers through the law.
Whistleblowing is essential to ensuring the accountability and integrity of the public and private sector. It’s the only way in which otherwise secret information can be brought to light, and hence it’s often the best way to uncover wrongdoing, corruption and downright immoral behaviour. Recent scandals uncovered by whistleblowers include illegal mass surveillance, industrial-scale tax avoidance and the sexual abuse of children by peacekeepers. The biggest leak in history to date, revealed in the Panama Papers, highlighted just how important whistleblowers are for allowing in-depth journalistic investigations in the public interest.
The key issue is that we need to ensure that there are safe ways for people to provide information and that they should be protected when doing so, not vilified and victimised. Another fundamental point, brought sharply into focus by the UK proposals, is that we must reverse the current trend of increasingly clamping down on freedom of information and freedom of expression, and of granting ever greater rights to governments and corporations to silence dissent. EU-wide legislation supporting whistleblowers is long overdue and essential for protecting genuine public interest. This remains just as relevant for the UK, even as it edges towards Brexit.
21 February 2017
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