Examples of whistleblowers being threatened or prosecuted for revealing information of public interest are on the rise. Also targeted are those who report leaked information.
Nearly a third of UN member states already have some laws covering whistleblower activity. Nonetheless, some, such as those in the United States and United Kingdom, have proved seriously inadequate when the information disclosed concerns the activities of the state itself, especially when national security is invoked.
A growing number of international instruments recognise the importance of whistleblowers and require or encourage states to adopt measures to protect disclosure. Whistle blowing is an integral part of freedom of expression, protected under Article 19 of the ICCPR as well as other standards such as UN Convention against Corruption.
Also at its November 2010 summit, the G20 identified “protection for whistleblowers” as a priority for the fight against corruption and fraud.
In 2004, the special rapporteurs on freedom of expression of the UN, of the Organization of American States and the representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe issued a joint statement urging governments not to abuse the label “secret” with the sole aim of preventing the disclosure of information that is in the public interest, and to protect whistleblowers against “legal, administrative or employment-related sanctions.”
The vulnerability of whistleblowers is a serious protection gap in the implementation of the right seek or impart information.
Given the recent examples of serious retaliation against whistleblowers, we believe that their international protection must be strengthened and that it is time for the international community to consider concrete steps to bridge this protection gap.
The Human Rights Council should pave the way and RWB along with the NGOs just named are ready to assist.