Whistleblowers are often reluctant to come forward and report corruption and crimes they see in the workplace, politics and other venues. They fear reprisal, retaliation, demotion, being fired, stigmatized and the cost of defending themselves.
Now the European Union’s Expanding Anonymous Tipping (EAT) program gives them a way to do speak out while protecting themselves through the use of secure online dropboxes to make reports to anti-corruption agencies or journalists.
In Bulgaria – the most corrupt EU country according to the Corruption Perception Index – the law doesn’t provide sufficient protection for journalists who report wrongdoing through publications, Lora Georgieva Mateeva, a senior legal expert at the Anti-Corruption Fund (ACF) told OFFNews.
ACF is one of the organizations using the secure dropboxes, partnering with the Center for Media Development and Blueprint for Free Speech.
The EAT Project provides organisations with a secure and easy to use whistleblowing platform, which offers potential whistleblowers anonymity and security.
“We handle sensitive information concerning corrupt practices. In this sense, the security of whistleblowers is paramount, as revealing their identities can be a danger to them,” said Georgieva Mateeva.
“That is why some of our whistleblowers prefer to use the new system, as it guarantees them security against malicious hacker intervention,” she said, giving a cloak of anonymity against employers or governments snooping for sources.
In most EU countries, including Bulgaria, while government workers have avenues for whistleblowing, workers in private companies can be disciplined, fired, or even prosecuted for divulging trade secrets or violating loyalty and confidentiality clauses if they report corruption.
Some of them are still under investigation and are awaiting required information under the Access to Public Information Act.
ACF’s team of lawyers and journalists examine each case, assessed against criteria determining red flags for corruption.
That includes following journalistic ethics as reporters don’t reveal sources if they are known to them, and EAT offers not just privacy and anonymity but a way to reach them for further communications if wanted.
“We invite every citizen with sufficiently reliable and provable information to contact us using the channel. The positive thing is that slowly, but surely, more and more people turn to us and our colleagues with information about crimes and corruption of any nature and scale, “added Georgieva Mateeva.
The method is especially crucial in a scandal-ridden state where people who uncover wrongdoing want to reach those they trust – journalists – without worry about being discovered by prying eyes of employers or governments.
By the end of this year, Bulgaria like other EU member states will be obliged to implement the 2019 EU Directive into national law, improving legal protections for whistleblowers in the public and private sectors. The Directive provides cover for whistleblowers and sources of information, including protection from reprisals, filling a gap by a lack of national regulations in member states.
Companies and public institutions can take advantage of the free channels available for Bulgaria by contacting the Center for Media Development by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. They can implement their own secure channels for signals from citizens and employees in an easy process taking only a few minutes.