European Federation of Journalists

Whistleblowers: EU Council wants to limit reporting to authorities and media

Update (16.04.2019): the European Parliament approved the directive in plenary session with 591 votes in favour, 29 against and 33 abstentions.

The Council of the European Union adopted on Friday 25 January its general approach on the protection of whistleblowers. The trilogue between the three European institutions has started with the aim to find a compromise before the next European elections.

The political agreement between the 28 Member States determines under what conditions whistleblowers can report breaches of EU law to be granted protection against retaliation. It foresees that a whistleblower must, as a rule, first make a report inside his/her company. Reporting to the media directly would only be allowed in three cases:

  1. no action was taken following a report within the company or to a competent authority within the timeframe;
  2. there is a “low prospect of the breach being effectively addressed” and the “breach may constitute an imminent or manifest danger to the public interest”;
  3. there is a “high risk of retaliation” or evidence may be destroyed because the authority concerned is colluding with the perpetrator of the breach.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is concerned by the direction this directive is taking.

“We have called on the European institutions to legislate at the European level to better protect whistleblowers, not to put a spoke in their wheels. By limiting to few cases the possibilities to turn to journalists, the Council, and the European Commission, are going against the very reason of this directive. We all know that the recent big scandals were possible thanks to whistleblowers who acted as journalists’ sources, although no EU-wide protection were in place. Now that we want to protect them, they must feel safe in talking to journalists in the public interest,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez.

The European Parliament adopted its position in November 2018 with more favourable provisions in the reporting process. The strict hierarchy between the channels was partially removed, leaving the choice to whistleblowers to report within the company or to an authority, with less restrictive conditions for public reports.

EFJ reaction to the European Commissions’ proposal

EFJ reaction to the European Parliament’s position

Analyses of whistleblowing from the journalists’ perspective

Credit photo: EFJ.