Communication on strengthening whistleblower protection at EU level

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details (2018) 214 final (23.04.18)
Publication Date 23/04/2018
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Background information:

Major scandals unfolding throughout the years - from LuxLeaks to Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, Dieselgate or Cambridge Analytica - focused the public opinion's attention on how wrongdoing inside organisations or companies both in the public and private sector can seriously harm the public interest.

In many cases, these scandals came to light thanks to people speaking up when they encounter wrongdoing in the context of their work. These 'whistleblowers' often risk their career and their livelihood and, in some cases, suffer severe and long-lasting financial, health, reputational and personal repercussions. Making sure that those who speak out are properly protected is a key element in preventing wrongdoings and defending the public interest.

Whistleblowers are also a crucial source for investigative journalism. Whistleblowers often turn to journalists when their concerns about a wrongdoing go unaddressed and their only option is to go public. Safeguarding investigative journalism’s watchdog role in democratic society requires not only protecting the confidentiality of its sources, but also protecting whistleblowers from retaliation, if their identity is exposed.

In this context, the European Commission decided to set a policy framework to strengthen whisteblower protection at EU level. At the same, it launched a proposal for a Directive on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law.

+ Proposal for a Directive on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law [COM(2018)218]

To this effect, it is drawing upon the European Court of Human Rights case-law on the right to freedom of expression and the Council of Europe 2014 Recommendation on Protection of Whistleblowers setting out principles to guide States when introducing or reviewing rules for whistleblowers who report or disclose information on threats or harm to the public interest. These principles include essential components for effective and balanced rules that protect genuine whistleblowers while providing safeguards and remedies for those harmed by inaccurate or malicious reports.

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ESO: Debate on the protection of whistle-blowers

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