New EU directive gives whistleblowers right to bypass hierarchy

The directive also forbids 'all forms of retaliation' against whistleblowers and would provide access to 'free advice and adequate remedies' in such cases

The new directive gives whistleblowers legal protection from the moment they decide to blow the whistle, bypassing the need for any internal approval
The new directive gives whistleblowers legal protection from the moment they decide to blow the whistle, bypassing the need for any internal approval

Whistleblowers can now legally report on wrongdoing directly to media outlets or regulators, before first having to go through their bosses, according to new rules agreed in Brussels.

The European Parliament and EU member states reached a provisional agreement on how to protect whistleblowers. This agreement clarifies the directive first suggested by the European Commission in April 2018.

That directive had caused concern among the press and media freedom community, as it would have forced whistleblowers to first report their evidence of wrongdoing internally within their organisations before taking them to third parties like the media or governmental authorities.

The new EU directive gives whistleblowers legal protection from the moment that they decide to blow the whistle, and they don't need any internal approval for doing so.

The directive has been hailed as an important victory for press and media freedom and was made possible by the multiple organisations that lobbied for the protection of whistleblowers at EU level.

In negotiating the details of the law, Luxembourg, Ireland and Hungary wanted tax issues to be exempt from the whistleblowing protection regime, but Germany, France and Italy insisted that they be included.

Details of the law include protection mechanisms like clear and confidential reporting channels within and outside of organisations.

The directive establishes a three-tier reporting system encompassing internal reporting channels, reporting to competent authorities and channels for reporting fraud to the media should "no appropriate action" be taken, or in case of "imminent or clear danger to the public interest or irreversible damage."

The directive also forbids "all forms of retaliation" against whistleblowers and would provide access to "free advice and adequate remedies," in such cases.

Flutura Kusari, legal adviser to the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, said: “We welcome the agreement between EU institutions reached late last night on the EU directive on protection of whistleblowers. This is a historic development as it is the first time the EU will oblige its Member States to put in place legislation to protect whistleblowers. Hopefully in the future, whistleblowers like Antoine Deltour (Luxembourg France), Maria Bamieh (Kosovo, the United Kingdom), Maria Efimova (Malta) will be protected instead of being prosecuted."

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