Whistleblowers are essential to democracy. They should therefore be granted protection, not least by the government. However, most European countries do not protect those, like former NSA agent Edward Snowden, willing to reveal corruption or illegal practices.
In a recent report, Whistleblowing in Europe. Legal protections for whistleblowers in the EU, NGO Transparency International says, only four out of 27 EU countries — namely Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and the United Kingdom — have “legal frameworks for whistleblower protection that are considered to be advanced”.
The other countries profiled are divided in two groups: those (16 of them) which grant protection to whistleblowers, if insufficient, and those (7 countries) where you had better think twice before disclosing sensitive information. Curiously, Finland, generally considered as an exceptionally open democracy, is among the latter.
“Why do all EU countries – and all countries in the world – need laws to protect whistleblowers from retaliation and give them safe avenues to report wrongdoing?” asks Transparency International —
Well, simply because, in most of countries, after whistleblowers have exposed their sensitive information, many are subject to almost certain backlash from their supervisor, co-workers or friends. They look for ways to keep their job, their career, their reputation – and in some cases their sanity or even their lives. As Whistleblowing in Europe explains, the lack of strong whistleblower protections in Europe not only hurts whistleblowers who rightly expect not to be fired, demoted or harassed for reporting crimes. These shortcomings are also harming citizens, the economy, the rule of law and the environment of Europe. When political corruption, financial misconduct and environmental crimes go undetected and unpunished, everyone loses. Wrongdoing like this can only be stamped out with the help of whistleblowers. And these people can only blow the whistle if they do not fear punishment for it.
This is why Transparency International suggests “swift action” by all EU countries to “pass new whistleblower laws” or to “strengthen their existing ones” —
Anything short of absolute, loophole-free protection for whistleblowers would rob Europe of the most valuable partner in fighting corruption – the people.