(GPA) The economic reform bill, Sapin 2, aims to grant whistleblowers some type of protection. The bill will also finally put a general legal definition to the term “whistleblower.”
A legal definition for “whistleblower” does not currently exist. With this economic reform bill, France will be journeying into uncharted territory as the rest of the EU haven’t really sunk their into any tangible measures to address corporate and government transparency. Or how to handle whistleblowers. It is expected the definition of “whistleblower” will be along the lines of the French Council of State’s suggestion in an April report: “signals in good faith, freely and in the public interest, from inside or outside an organisation, serious breaches of the law or serious threats to public or private interests, for which he is not responsible”.
Complexity arises, however, when trying to figure out how to grant a whistleblower immunity while at the same time keeping trade secrets protected. If enacted, the bill will most likely set up a “chain of command” which would require a potential whistleblower to go through certain channels in order to be granted immunity. The potential whistleblower could first either choose to take action up with the head of administration in question, or with an external body such as the French Defender of Rights. The information will then be made public after the proper authorities have sifted through it and decided not to take any follow-up actions.
Putting a legal definition is definitely beyond needed and absolutely a step in the right direction. But remember, this is all drafted as part of an economic reform bill. The French are possibly now seeing whistleblowers not as an enemy but rather an asset to capitalize on. Almost like corporate spies or hackers. If a potential whistleblower knows they will not be prosecuted if they go through the proper channels, more are certainly likely to come forward. This helps add a level of accountability and transparency to corporations and other entities.
So what does this mean for the future of leaks? Less Edward Snowden, more Panama Papers. The “chain of command” described in the French bill appears to be similar to how the Panama Papers were released: to one “authority” (ICIJ), censored, and distributed in a very watered-down fashion.
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