Whistleblowing in the news…

Steve Snively
Co-editor
Transparency Times

World Whistleblowers Day – 23 June 

World Whistleblowers Day is an international observance held on June 23 every year. Its main goal is to raise public awareness about the important role of whistleblowers in combating corruption and maintaining national security.

According to the Transparency International media release “This year, we celebrate World Whistleblower Day, 23 June, with some serious wins for whistleblower protection already behind us in 2019, and some encouraging developments on the horizon.”

In Europe, over half a billion people have been assured protection for reporting wrongdoing at work, thanks to an EU directive which was agreed in March.

Protection of Whistleblowers endorsed at the G20 Summit

“The G20 High Level Principles for Effective Protection of Whistleblowers endorsed at the June 2019 G20 Summit in Osaka are a welcome acknowledgement of the crucial role whistleblowers play in bringing wrongdoing to light, and the retribution they often face. G20 countries should now move quickly to turn words into action, and pass national legislation that matches or goes beyond the level of protection recommended by the Osaka principles,” Transparency International media release.

Govt delays upgrade of weak and unclear whistleblower law

In New Zealand, updated Whistleblower legislation was placed on hold in May. We are still unable to find more information about why.

Scoop.co.nz‘Changes to whistleblower legislation to make it easier for employees to report everything from bullying to fraud have been delayed. This also pushes back moves to potentially bring the private sector into a critical part of the legislation.

The delay comes despite a damning Ombudsman report last month showing less than 10 percent of people know they can be protected if they report wrongdoing under the Protected Disclosures Act.

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins said last year that he would report back in April on ways to beef up the act, following a six-week consultation period.

“Officials have summarised the comments received and are preparing preliminary advice for Minister Hipkins on the policy choices for his consideration,” a spokesperson said. “They will also provide him with advice on a revised time frame.”’

What are we to think about Julian Assange?

Meanwhile, Julian Assange of Wikileaks is in British custody pending extradition to the United States or Switzerland.

He allegedly assisted in hacking highly secure United States government computer systems, willingly cooperated with foreign government intelligence services, and published stolen documents.

The whistleblowing component – at least on Chelsea Manning’s part – is a pronounced example of the fundamental whistleblowing dilemma. The unauthorized and in this case, illegal (according to United States law) release of sensitive corporate or government data, illustrates the feeling. It is in direct conflict with the public good derived from exposure to potentially bad, illegal and immoral behavior.

It is clear that whistleblowers who focus on what is “classified information” will continue to face severe repercussions. Efforts to improve, encourage and protect whistleblowers are challenged by the power held by those agencies traditionally holding classified information, and some will argue the security of nations.

Press freedom is an imperative of democracy

One has to feel conflicted in defending Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Whatever you think about Assaunge, publication of sensitive information without repercussions is a foundation of democracy. Many of Wikileaks actions have destabilised western democracies. Assange and WikiLeaks form an outlier member of the fourth estate. Just the same, it is unacceptable for the US Government to prosecute Assange for the publication of stolen documents – once stolen. This is a step too far; publication of such information is an essential element of freedom of the press and a transparent non corrupt society.

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