Debating the ‘Whistleblower Protection Guarantees’ Bill

On 20 October 2015 in the Volodymyrsky conference hall of Khreshchatyk hotel in Kiev, there was an expert discussion of the ‘Whistleblower Protection Guarantees in Ukraine’ bill, which can become an important tool in the anticorruption framework of Ukraine. The bill was proposed by the ‘Initiative 11’ group.

Article 11 of the ‘Access to Public Information Act’ included the possibility of exempting whistleblowers from criminal liability, but it did not solve the problem of protecting these individuals. Therefore in Spring 2015 a group of law experts decided to work out a Bill that would strengthen Article 11 and provide an effective mechanism for whistleblowers protection. The new Bill is intended to promote freedom of speech, and change the traditionally negative attitude in our society to exposing offences at all levels of power.

The first public discussion of the Bill’s concepts introduced the results of half a year of work. The meeting became a platform for sharing constructive ideas about the Bill. The moderators of the meeting were Oksana Nesterenko (Ukrainian League of Lawyers for Combating Corruption) and Tatiana Semiletko (Media Law Institute) who are the Bill’s developers. About 30 experts took part in the discussion. Among them there were competent and recognized legal experts from reputable institutions of Ukraine, public persons, journalists, representatives of business and international organizations, as well as a Member of Parliament. The participants discussed the key definitions, the scope of the law, internal, external and regulatory disclosure channels of information exposure. The issues of creating financial and moral incentives for whistleblowers; setting a single register of their cases and a National Fund for their protection were considered.

The event took place over two hours. “The discussion was very intense and informative.” said Oksana Bulba (of the law company Luxoft Ukraine). “All the experts who were invited to the round table took an active part in the debate; they expressed deep interest in this topic. It is important that the lawyers not only criticized the provisions, they also introduced some grounded and constructive comments. All our proposals found a keen response among the development team. We saw that they are ready to consider all the opinions from experts and citizens. I’m going to send them my own suggestions for the Bill.” Panelists also highlighted the great work of the ‘Initiative 11’ group members in studying and implementing global practices on whistleblower protection.

Tatyana Semiletko, a member of the Bill’s development team, intends that all sensible views and proposals will be taken into account. The provisions of the Bill have already been published for open debate on the ‘Initiative 11’ FB group page and website.