IFJ Calls for New Protection for Whistleblowers Within European Union

The International Federation of Journalists today called for new protection for whistleblowers within the institutions of the European Union as part of a comprehensive review of transparency rules and communications policy.

“The European Union is not convincing citizens that what happens in Brussels is good for them and good for the future of Europe,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary at a meeting regarding whistle-blowing and its importance to democracy and institutional accountability in Brussels today.

He said that a culture of censorship within the EU institutions was leading to the victimisation of civil servants who revealed information in the public interest. He said that the hearing this week over suspended chief accountant Marta Andreasen was a test case of the Commission’s trust in the concept of the people’s right to know.

“Here is a woman facing the sack because she told the truth about the problems within the EU accounting system. It was a problem they knew about inside the Commission, but they wanted to keep secret from the people of Europe,” he said. “Why should it be appropriate in a democracy for someone to face dismissal because they told the truth?”

“The problem is that some Brussels leaders think people should be fed information that suits only their political and management interests,” said White. “That’s not good enough in a democracy and people outside the Brussels goldfish bowl are well aware of it.”

Formal presentations were given by whistleblowers Paul Van Buitenen and Dougal Watt at the meeting organized by the Journalists @ Your Service (JAYS) coalition of journalists’ groups, including the IFJ, the Brussels foreign correspondents group, API, the European Journalism Centre, the National Union of Journalists (UK and Ireland) and the International Press Centre.

Dougal Watt explained his experience as a public service auditor with the European Court of Auditors (CoA), and the events that eventually led to him being forced out of his position. He questioned CoA management efficiency and the willingness of MEPs to act on information given to them.

Paul van Buitenen summarised the events that lead to his departure from the EC and eventual election as an MEP.

The speakers included Martha Andreasen, who is facing dismissal for going public over accounting problems in the EU.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries