MEPs pass laws to protect whistleblowers 

MEPs pass laws to protect whistleblowers 

New European Union legislation will make it harder for firms to punish whistleblowers, in a move aimed at encouraging employees to expose illegal activity. 

Protection for whistleblowers was approved by outgoing European parliamentarians this week. 

Companies will not be able to suspend, dismiss or retaliate against anyone who reports illegal or harmful activity.

Governments are also required to train staff in how to deal with whistleblowers under the regulations.

Staff will be protected if they report concerns if no action was taken when they addressed the issue internally or there is an “imminent danger to the public interest.”

Transparency International said the “pathbreaking legislation” would give firms “greater legal certainty around their rights and obligations”.

The rules cover discloses on money laundering, financial services, public health, consumer and data protection, product and transport safety and public procurement.

The UK already has legal protections for whistleblowers, but many other member states lack similar rights and obligations.

The EU says the safeguards prevent a whistleblower being demoted, intimidated, suspended or facing other forms of retaliation.

The vote sent a clear message that the EU stood for freedom of speech and against corruption, and that it backed assassinated journalists and their families, Maltese MEP Dr Francis Zammit Dimech said.

“A year and a half since the assassination of [Maltese investigative journalist] Daphne [Caruana Galizia] we do not know who ordered the killing of Daphne and the family had to resort to the Courts of Justice to seek a public inquiry,” he said.

Zammit Dimech said Malta’s government was only supporting whistleblowers who revealed corruption that pleased it.

Virgine Roziere, the commission’s representative on the issue, said: “Recent scandals such as the LuxLeaks, Panama Papers and football leaks have helped to shine a light on the great precariousness that whistleblowers suffer today.

“On the eve of European elections, parliament has come together to send a strong signal that it has heard the concerns of its citizens, and pushed for robust rules guaranteeing their safety and that of those people who choose to speak out.”

The parliament has been busy ahead of the late May elections, which could shake up the balance of power in the chamber. 

“We should protect whistleblowers from being punished, sacked, demoted or sued in court for doing the right thing for society,” the commission’s vice president, Frans Timmermans, said.

“This will help tackle fraud, corruption, corporate tax avoidance and damage to people’s health and the environment.”

 

 

Flowers for murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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