November 4, 2015 | Posted in:blog, News

The IPU resolution – Democracy in the Digital Era and the threat to Privacy and Individual Freedoms – highlights the need for democratic oversight and transparency. Whistleblowers play a crucial role in ensuring transparency and freedom of information. The IPU:

Strongly recommends that parliaments, as part of their oversight function, enact coherent and comprehensive legislation on the protection of whistleblowers in line with international standards and best practices

Last week, the European Union, following a 285-281 vote in the European Parliament, called on EU member states to protect whistleblower Edward Snowden, and called on states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistleblower and international human rights defender.”

The IPU resolution is a direct response to mass surveillance of the global population, disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It now seems that Europe is strengthening its resolve to protect a whistleblower who has opened up a necessary public debate about mass surveillance, privacy, democracy and civil and human rights.

Furthermore, the resolution calls for “secure and uncompromised systems of communication for the public good and the protection of basic rights” and notes its concern “that mass surveillance programmes regarding digital communications and other forms of digital expression constitute violations of the right to privacy, including when conducted extraterritorially, and endanger the rights to freedom of expression and information, as well as other fundamental human rights, including the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, thus undermining participative democracy

The disclosures Snowden brought to global attention exposed serious violations by governments and private companies of our right to privacy. This latest vote by the European Parliament, is another reminder that whistleblowers need to be protected.

History has shown that mechanisms for internal whistleblowing are widely unacceptable, needing urgent review, while external whistleblowing may be vital, especially when internal canals are defunct. A democracy built on openness and transparency must include strong whistleblower protections.

The IPU also urges parliaments to “carefully review national laws and practices of government agencies and/or surveillance organizations acting on their behalf so as to make sure that they comply with international law and human rights, especially as they relate to the right to privacy, and calls on parliaments to guarantee, as part of that review, that private and public companies will not be forced to cooperate with the authorities on practices that impair their customers’ human rights“.

In case of violations the IPU calls on parliaments “to uphold both governmental and corporate accountability for violations of human rights” such as the right to privacy, utilizing as instruments “adequate sanctions to ensure justice and to act as a deterrent, including criminal prosecution, administrative fines, suspension or withdrawal of business licenses, and the payment of reparation to individuals for harm caused“.

Without whistleblowers, this resolution and the global dialogue on the right to privacy would not have come about. Whistleblowers play an integral role in any meaningful democracy.