Whistleblowers need protection


THE Whistleblowers Act to protect whistleblowers should actually be in effect already.
Prime Minister James Marape on Friday said they drafting a Whistleblowers Act that will protect credible witnesses who are in the serious business of producing evidence against corruption or misuse of official powers.
The same was said of this Act last year.
The Act, once passed, will shield those who stand up, often at great personal risk, for the sake of truth and the public interest.
The Bill aims to provide protection to whistleblowers who make public any corruption, criminal activity or wrongdoing by those in power.
Welcome news is that journalists will also be covered in the course of their work report on corruption.
Also covered will be private citizens and public officers.
Whistleblowers are a vital tool in keeping a check on official misconduct.
Employees of conscience who see those in a position of authority abuse their power have a moral duty to speak out, and deserve legal protection for their public service.
Whistleblowers should be seen as essential to a functioning democracy.
Whether this Bill gives that protection to whistleblowers, though, is far from certain.
Wikipedia says a whistleblower (also written as whistle-blower or whistle blower) is a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organisation that is either private or public.
Whistleblowers, however, take the risk of facing stiff reprisal and retaliation from those who are accused or alleged of wrongdoing.
Whistleblowers are often viewed by their employers as traitors to the organisation.
They can be subjected to harassment from their superiors or demoted to idle positions where they are effectively denied chances to engage in substantial work – possibly lasting until they reach the mandatory retirement age.
The law should prohibit employers from giving such unfair treatment to workers for blowing the whistle, but it is essentially toothless to stop them in the absence of penalties for violators. The law when enacted should be made crystal clear what kind of activity is protected, or under what circumstances.
To be effective, these laws cannot leave what constitutes protected activity up for interpretation.
Most times whistleblowers are penalised for not using proper channels to make their disclosures, when doing so would require the whistleblower to trust the company or agency whose conduct he is exposing.
The definition of proper channels should therefore be broadened to include the media.
Often the media are a whistleblower’s only real option, and exposing the unethical or illegal behaviour to the public is crucial.
When they are revealed along with the secrets they uncover, they often end up marginalised, shamed or, worse, threatened. People love the betrayal, but not the betrayer.
This sort of treatment is a signal to others who might come forward:
Look what can happen to you if you leak incriminating information.
You may be ostracised, sued, imprisoned, ridiculed and intimidated.
Not every whistleblower is a white knight, a role model in every way.
Some are extremely unsympathetic.
But they and their deeds deserve to be protected, not punished.
If we do not raise our voices in defence of whistleblowers, if there is no public outcry and no change for the better in laws and practice, criminals and corrupt elites will win.
We know once the law designed to protect whistleblowers is passed, the system to protect people for raising the alarm on wrongdoing will serve its purpose.

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