Yesterday, the European Council, Parliament and Commission reached a political agreement on a proposed Directive introducing new, EU-wide rules for the protection of whistleblowers.
The political agreement, which awaits official ratification by the European Parliament and Member States, strikes a delicate balance between the public’s right to know and liability for divulging sensitive information to the public, and the liability for the acquisition of such information.
News Media Europe has been actively involved throughout the legislative process. We welcome the agreement but also caution that it strikes a thin balance in terms of the conditions under which whistleblowers can be protected when going to the press with information in the wider public interest.
Recognising that many interests are at stake, we believe that the agreement reached constitutes a positive outcome, including for the news ecosystem sector as a whole. The Directive introduces greater harmonisation of whistleblower protection rules and includes a non-regression clause allowing Member States who want to go further in protecting whistleblowers, and those who already do, to continue doing so.
Whistleblowers will benefit from legal protection for acquiring information and going straight to the public if there are reasonable grounds to believe that informing regulators of illegitimate activities may not result in desirable action being taken. This introduces a low burden of proof on whistleblowers which effectively balances different interests at stake.
However, we caution that implementation will depend on the interpretation of the Directive by Member States. In light of this, News Media Europe will closely follow the implementation of the Directive and work closely with the European institutions to ensure that any continued concerns can be addressed in the near future. The Directive is expected to come into force in 2021.
About News Media Europe:
News Media Europe (NME) represents the progressive news media industry in Europe – over 2400 European news brands in print or online, and also on radio and tv. NME is committed to maintaining and promoting the freedom of the press, to upholding and enhancing the freedom to publish, and to championing the news brands which are one of the most vital parts of Europe’s creative industries.