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Whistleblowing

A whistleblower (whistle-blower or whistle blower is a person who tells the public or someone in authority about alleged dishonest or illegal activities (misconduct) occurring in a government department or private company or organization. The alleged misconduct may be classified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/safety violations, and corruption. Whistleblowers may make their allegations internally (for example, to other people within the accused organization) or externally (to regulators, law enforcement agencies, to the media or to groups concerned with the issues).

 

One of the first laws that protected whistleblowers was the 1863 United States False Claims Act (revised in 1986), which tried to combat fraud by suppliers of the United States government during the Civil War. The act encourages whistleblowers by promising them a percentage of the money recovered or damages won by the government and protects them from wrongful dismissal.[2]

 

Whistleblowers frequently face reprisal, sometimes at the hands of the organization or group which they have accused, sometimes from related organizations, and sometimes under law.

 

Questions about the legitimacy of whistle blowing, the moral responsibility of whistle blowing, and the appraisal of the institutions of whistle blowing are part of the field of political ethics.

 

 

Definition

 

Ryszard Kukliński believed that he would be able to prevent the war in Europe between the Warsaw Pact and NATO countries by handing in 40,265 pages of secret military documents of East Germany and People's Republic of Poland to CIA in West Germany

Most whistleblowers are internal whistleblowers, who report misconduct on a fellow employee or superior within their company. One of the most interesting questions with respect to internal whistleblowers is why and under what circumstances people will either act on the spot to stop illegal and otherwise unacceptable behavior or report it.There is some reason to believe that people are more likely to take action with respect to unacceptable behavior, within an organization, if there are complaint systems that offer not just options dictated by the planning and control organization, but a choice of options for absolute confidentiality.

 

External whistleblowers, however, report misconduct on outside persons or entities. In these cases, depending on the information's severity and nature, whistleblowers may report the misconduct to lawyers, the media, law enforcement or watchdog agencies, or other local, state, or federal agencies. In some cases, external whistleblowing is encouraged by offering monetary reward.

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The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (c.23) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that protects whistleblowers from detrimental treatment by their employer. Influenced by various financial scandals and accidents, along with the report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the bill was introduced to Parliament by Richard Shepherd and given government support, on the condition that it become an amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996. After receiving the Royal Assent on 2 July 1998, the Act came into force on 2 July 1999. It protects employees who make disclosures of certain types of information, including evidence of illegal activity or damage to the environment, from retribution from their employers, such as dismissal or being passed over for promotion. In cases where such retribution takes place the employee may bring a case before an employment tribunal, which can award compensation.

 

As a result of the Act, many more employers have instituted internal whistleblowing procedures, although only 38 percent of individuals surveyed worked for a company with such procedures in place. The Act has been criticised for failing to force employers to institute such a policy, containing no provisions preventing the "blacklisting" of employees who make such disclosures, and failing to protect the employee from libel proceedings should his allegation turn out to be false.

Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998

Prior to the 1998 Act, whistleblowers in the United Kingdom had no protection against being dismissed by their employer. Although they could avoid being sued for breach of confidence thanks to a public interest defence, this did not prevent subtle or open victimisation in the workplace, including disciplinary action, dismissal,[1] failure to gain promotion or a pay rise.[2] During the early to mid-1990s, interest in whistleblower protection grew, partially because of a series of financial scandals and health and safety accidents, which investigations into showed could have been prevented if employees had been permitted to voice their concerns,[3] and partially because of the work of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.[4] In 1995 and 1996, two private member's bills dealing with whistleblowers were introduced to Parliament, by Tony Wright and Don Touhig respectively, but both efforts fell through. When Richard Shepherd proposed a similar bill, however, he got government support for it on the condition that it be an amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996 rather than a new area of law in its own right.[5] Public Concern at Work, a UK-based whistleblowers charity, was involved in the drafting and consultation stages of the bill.[6]

 

The Public Interest Disclosure Bill was introduced to the House of Commons by Shepherd in 1997, and given its second reading on 12 December before being sent to a committee.[7] After being passed by the Commons it moved to the House of Lords on 27 April 1998,[8] and was passed on 29 June,[9] receiving the Royal Assent on 2 July and becoming the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.[10] Originally scheduled to come into force on 1 January 1999,[4] the Act instead became applicable law on 2 July.

 

 

 

Terry Corbin, writing in the Criminal Law and Justice Weekly, notes that the result of the Act has been that many more employers have developed internal processes for reporting issues; partially due to their desire to fix problems before they become publicly reports, and partially because if an employee chooses to not use these processes and instead act under the 1998 Act, there is a greater chance the employer can depict his behaviour as "unreasonable".[20] However, a survey done by Public Concern At Work showed that in 2010, only 38 percent of those surveyed worked for companies with whistleblowing policies in place, and only 23 percent knew that legal protection for whistleblowers existed. The number of cases brought by whistleblowers to employment tribunals has increased by over a thousandfold, from 157 in 1999/2000 to 1,761 in 2008/9.

David Lewis, writing in the Industrial Law Journal, highlights what he perceives as weaknesses in the legislation. Firstly, it does not force employers to make a policy relating to disclosures. Secondly, it does not prevent employers from "blacklisting" and refusing to hire those who are known within the industry to have made disclosures in previous jobs. The complexity of the law was also criticised, as was the fact that, if such a disclosure turns out to be incorrect, the employee may be sued for libel by his employer.[22] Volunteers and self-employed people are not covered, nor are those who, in disclosing the information, commit a criminal offence.[23] At the same time, the law does not make any provision for psychological harm caused by whistleblowing, which research shows is an increasing likelihood.

Whistleblowers Organisations

 

Whistleblowing Articles

 

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In 1998, extrajudicial executions were carried out in 47 countries, 'disappearances' occurred in 37 countries, torture occurred in 125 countries, prisoners of conscience were held in 78 countries, unfair trials for political prisoners occurred in 35 countries, detentions without charge or trial occurred in 66 countries, executions were carried out in 36 countries, and human rights abuses were committed by armed opposition groups in 37 countries.

 

 

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