What is whistleblowing and who is a whistleblower? Although there is no uniform definition of these terms, whistleblowing has been used since the 1970’s to describe activities of people who wish to draw attention to unfair practices, primarily in sports. The term is derived from an English phrase “to blow the whistle” evoking the warning sound of a whistle which indicates unfair practices. A whistleblower is therefore a person who reports such practice or behaviour.
In most cases, a whistleblower is an employee who witnesses unfair or illegal practices in the course of their work, either within their position or through internal communication sources. Unfair or illegal practices are often reported by whistleblowers who are public employees or work at big corporations.
The status of whistleblowers in the Czech Republic is far from satisfying. If you detect unfair or illegal (criminal) conduct of your employer and decide to report it, you cannot be sure that your report will remain confidential and will be thoroughly investigated. To make matters worse, many potential whistleblowers rightfully fear sanctions. It may very well happen that the conduct not only fails to be investigated or discontinued, but you may be forced to leave your job regardless of your impeccable performance so far. Currently, a whistleblower has no guarantee that they will not be subject to retaliation. Even if you make an anonymous report, there is no guarantee that the conduct you report will be thoroughly investigated. Moreover, you stand a good chance of being identified and subsequently subjected to retaliation.
The situation may change for the better in the foreseeable future, however. By December 17, 2021, as a member of the European Union, the Czech Republic must transpose Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and the Council of October 23, 2019, on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law, into its national legislation in the form of a Whistleblower Protection Act. The bill drafted by the Ministry of Justice was approved by the Government on February 1, 2021. At present, one of the major questions is whether the future norm will embrace a newly established independent body (authority) to manage the new agenda.
Will the whistleblowers benefit from the new law? Will it help us identify which types of conduct to report? For answers to these and many more questions please read our future articles in which we will share examples of real cases and whistleblowers’ experiences.
Martina Uhrinová is a former methodology expert and investigator with 20 years of experience in the Anti-Corruption Police. She was a member of teams investigating the most serious economic crimes in the field of corruption and protection of EU financial interests. She also served as Director of the Department of Analysis and Reporting of Irregularities to the OLAF Office of the Ministry of Finance, which is responsible for complaints and protection of EU financial interests. Currently, she is in charge of control in public administration and the development of control systems for non-profit organizations.
In 2016, she received the Foundation Against Corruption´s Courage Award.