Whistlelowers must be protected

Whistleblowing can save lives, the environment and money. It is high time for legislation on EU-wide whistleblower protection.

Whistleblowers often risk paying a high price for disclosing information. Yet whistleblowing can be essential in bringing to light activities contrary to public interest, illegal activities, corruption and threats to public health and safety.

Who is a whistleblower?

A whistleblower could be a worker, self-employed, a shareholder, a volunteer, an unpaid trainee a contractor, subcontractor or supplier, a former worker, or even someone going for a job interview and coming across information about corruption.

Why are whistleblowers important?

Recent cases exposed by whistleblowers include illegal mass surveillance, industrial scale tax avoidance, abuse of environmental protections, and even the sexual abuse of children by peacekeepers. Such whistleblowing against large corporations and nation states is one of the most effective measures for combating wrongdoing that affects the whole of society.

Public tax money is lost

Due to corruption, the EU loses 120 billion euros each year, which could be saved by installing proper horizontal EU legislation on whistleblower protection.

Whistleblowers make our societies more transparent.

What's this whistle, and who's blowing it?

Cross-border workers face challenges

The transnational nature of work is growing and this presenting specific problems for workers who want to report wrongdoing, but cannot rely on a single minimum standard of whistleblower protection.

Investigative journalists always take a risk

Whether the threat of death, jail time, other forms of persecution or simple interference with their work, investigative journalists face exceptional obstacles in uncovering wrong-doing, speaking truth to power and holding the powerful to account.

Food safety concerns everyone

In an increasingly globalized world supply chains also cross borders. The UK horsemeat scandal of 2013 could have been detected sooner if whistleblowers had known where to report and what protection they could expect.

If we better protect whistleblowers, we can better detect and prevent harm to the public interest.

Vice-President Frans Timmermans, European Commission

Current state of affairs in Europe

A patchwork with many EU member states lacking any protection

Protection for whistleblowers in Europe is currently a patchwork affair. Some countries, such as Ireland having robust laws in place, while others, such as Cyprus, have practically none. 16 EU member states have specific laws or provisions, and 10 of those adopted their laws or in the past 5 years. Three other countries have at least partial legal protections for whistleblowers.

Blueprint for Free Speech’s new report series on whistleblower protection in Europe shows that protections are still low across EU countries. Whistleblowers need stronger, more comprehensive laws – and those laws need to work in practice.

Right now many whistleblowers suffer a great deal as a result of their disclosures: on a micro level those reporting bad behaviour within their companies may face dismissal, demotion or denial of promotion. On a national scale, they may lose their freedom and their homes. Not everyone has the stamina and fortitude to go on the run, which is why we need robust laws to protect those who are trying to protect all of us.

On 23 April 2018, the long-awaited Commission proposal was presented.

No two whistleblower stories are the same

Tax fraud whistleblower Hervé Falciani

Earlier this year, French-Italian whistleblower Hervé Falciani was arrested in Spain. Falciani was one of the first to blow the whistle on global tax fraud in 2006 and 2007 when he worked at a Swiss spin-off of HSBC as a computer scientist.

MI5 whistleblower Annie Machon

MI5 whistleblower Annie Machon, who was forced to go on the run with her partner David Shayler in 1997 for revealing corruption in the British intelligence service, has spoken often of the emotional and psychological toll it can take.

Antoine Deltour and Raphaël Halet

The most well known duo who went public with information about the favourable tax deals given to multinational corporations by the Luxembourg government. However both have faced serious repercussions for their whistleblowing.

Participating organisations