Whistleblower directive: the European Commission takes “an important step” but improvement on public reporting yet to be made


On 23 April, the European Commission issued a proposal for a directive on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law. This is an important step in acknowledging the crucial importance of the protection of whistleblowers against intimidation and retaliation in European democracies.

The proposed directive emphasises the important role of whistleblowers as journalistic sources for investigative journalism, allowing the industry to fulfil its ‘watchdog’ role. It also acknowledges that sufficient whistleblower protection is needed to ensure the freedom of expression as well as the public’s right to access information and media freedom. This is indeed crucial as it allows citizens to form their opinions about current affairs, participate in political debates and better exercise their democratic rights.

Yet, while it is important that internal and external channels of reporting do exist for whistleblowers, it is also crucial that whistleblowers may disclose relevant information to the media. In practice, the proposal only allows whistleblowers to go public as a last resort and under unclear conditions which hampers both whistleblowers and journalists in their ability to share misconduct with the public. The Commission’s intention to improve whistleblower protection in Europe and recognize whistleblowers’ important role in enabling journalists and the free press should be translated into appropriate rules that do not discourage whistleblowers from turning to the media.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and News Media Europe (NME) believe that some wrongdoings are so serious that the public has a right to know, irrespective of the availability of reporting mechanisms.

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The EFJ

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is the largest organisation of journalists in Europe, representing over 320,000 journalists in 71 journalists’ organisations across 43 countries. The EFJ fights for social and professional rights of journalists working in all sectors of the media across Europe through strong trade unions and associations. The EFJ promotes and defends the rights to freedom of expression and information as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European convention on human rights.

News Media Europe

News Media Europe (NME) represents the progressive news media industry in Europe –  over 2200 European news brands in print or online, and also on radio and tv. NME is committed to maintaining and promoting the freedom of the press, to upholding and enhancing the freedom to publish, and to championing the news brands which are one of the most vital parts of Europe’s creative industries.

The EBU

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is the world’s leading alliance of public service media (PSM). We have 73 Members in 56 countries in Europe, and an additional 33 Associates in Asia, Africa and the Americas. Our Members operate almost 2,000 television, radio and online channels and services, and offer a wealth of content across other platforms. Together they reach an audience of more than one billion people around the world, broadcasting in more than 120 languages. The EBU operates Eurovision and Euroradio services.