How to protect whistleblowers?

HCLU and K-monitor provided expert opinion on the government’s draft law on whistleblower protection.

A whistleblower exposes his or her supervisor by disclosing information to prevent damage to society or by posterior revealing the circumstances of damage. This is very useful to society but poses great risks to the individual. Therefore, we need to provide sufficient guarantees for the individual and prevent retaliation by supervisors of whistleblowers. The case of the policeman who exposed two officers after they had beaten a defendant to death during an interrogation demonstrates the need for effective regulation. The policeman in question was forced on paid-leave as retaliation.
The government’s proposal to protect whistleblowers is important. Whistleblower protection in other countries is an important institution in the fight against corruption, yet in Hungary it is an almost unknown concept. However, we find the proposed measures unfortunate as they wrongly assume the existence of well-functioning and effective mechanisms for integration in the public sector.
A general problem with the proposal, we find, is the lack of clarity on the involvement of the whistleblower in an investigation and how an investigation might be launched in a case. We believe closer cooperation between the prosecution and the system of whistleblower protection is needed. It is also unclear how the whistleblower will be given legal and financial support. Furthermore, we find it unfortunate that outside the public sector the protection of whistleblowers is incidental.
Anonymity and protection of personal data is critical to regulation on whistleblower protection from the perspective of fundamental rights, efficiency and trust. The advisor on integration plays a critical role in the process but the adviser’s independence is not guaranteed in the draft law which is paramount. We highlight the opportunities for abuse embedded in the electronic reporting system and the need to strengthen the role of the ombudsman. Outside the public sector, whistleblowers have the possibility to hire a lawyer whose role is analogous to that of an adviser.  However, the emphasis here is on “possibility” as there is no way to force companies to adopt the system of protection.
Meanwhile, the Council of Europe is drafting a legal opinion on whistleblower protection. It will be worth paying attention to the proposed solutions.

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