“It is a fact of society that there will always be whistle-blowers. Times of crisis show that we need them to safeguard our fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and information, but we also need them to enable us to prepare for and manage such situations more effectively,” said Sylvain Waserman (France, ALDE), rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on improving the protection of whistle-blowers throughout Europe, commenting on an NGO initiative on the situation and role of whistle-blowers during the coronavirus crisis.
“Whistle-blowers can also help to prevent or correct state failures during the current crisis. They are therefore an essential cog in the wheel of our democracies, and their protection is a measure of how democratic we are,” he added.
Sylvain Waserman made 13 proposals in his report adopted by PACE on 1 October 2019 to improve the protection of whistle-blowers, building on the Council of Europe’s work since 2010, including the need to amend certain pieces of legislation in order to ensure that whistle-blowers and those close to them are protected against any retaliation by third parties and that the burden of proof lies with those who attack whistle-blowers.
More specifically, he recommends pushing for the setting up of an independent authority in each Council of Europe member state, whose role would be to assist whistle-blowers and to liaise with the judicial authorities as a reliable contact point. Such an authority would be particularly important during this period of crisis.
“I therefore fully support the initiative taken by these NGOs to continue working to improve the protection of whistle-blowers not only during this crisis but also once it is behind us,” Mr Waserman concluded.