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European Parliament Panel approves Whistleblower Protections for all EU Countries
by FRA, Government Accountability Project
Nov. 2018
European Parliament Panel approves Whistleblower Protections for all EU Countries, (Government Accountability Project)
This week, the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) of the European Parliament voted in favor of a proposed Whistleblower Protection Directive, which would create legally binding free speech protections for whistleblowers in all EU member states. Among the compromises within the directive, one of the most notable was the extension of whistleblower protections to journalists – a progressive move that would surpass whistleblower protections in most developed countries.
Highlights of the Directive include:
A comprehensive, continent-wide ban on direct or indirect retaliation against all current or former, public or private workers and volunteers who blow the whistle. as well as those who assist them including Civil Society Organizations and media that report on their evidence. Protection against criminal prosecution and corporate lawsuits for damages.
Equal rights for national security whistleblowers challenging denial or loss of security clearances; Provision of psychological support to deal with the stress of harassment.
Whistleblower advocates are hailing JURI’s decision as a success. Referring to provisions listed above, Government Accountability Project Legal Director Tom Devine said, “The European Union Whistleblower Directive voted out of committee today would set the global standard for best practice rights protecting freedom of speech where it counts the most—challenging abuses of power that betray the public trust. If approved, this will be a landmark paradigm shift protecting freedom of speech, and give whistleblowers a meaningful voice to make a difference. The new Directive is far stronger than U.S. whistleblower rights.”
However, the Directive is unclear about its application to certain key contexts, such as ‘duty speech,’ when employees report the same whistleblowing information as part of a job assignment or to a supervisor, rather than as formal dissent. This is where the overwhelming majority of whistleblowing information gets communicated, and where the free flow of truth is needed for healthy organizations. But it also is the setting for the overwhelming majority of retaliation. The current Directive in unclear whether protection extends to that context. It must, or the Directive will only cover the tip and miss the iceberg of what’s needed.”
Nov. 2018
Civil society is increasingly finding it harder to operate and face threats for simply doing their work, according to a paper from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.
The ‘Civil society space: views of organisations’ conference paper summarises the outcomes of a consultation FRA held with its civil society network, the Fundamental Rights Platform, about their experiences. Nearly 140 organisations gave their views.
Civil society organisations are an essential part of a well-functioning democracy. They help ‘give a voice’ to people on issues that matter to them, and offer assistance. They also help monitor governments’ and parliaments’ activities, and hold authorities to account for their actions. Their direct contact with people also makes them an invaluable source of practical hands-on advice to policy makers.
However, to play this role they need a safe and enabling environment. This paper reveals that this is often not the case: over half of the organisations that responded report that they perceive the general situation is worsening for civil society.
The same proportion also says that they face threats or attacks because of their work. This can take the form of verbal and online threats, physical attacks, damage to their property as well as negative media campaigns and threats to their security online.
The vast majority of organisations say they have been affected by legal changes. Typically, this relates to taxation, freedom of expression and assembly and transparency or lobbying laws.
Financing was also difficult. Three quarters report facing obstacles in resourcing or funding. Organisations point to a lack of core funding, which is crucial for them to operate generally beyond project-financed work. In addition, almost a half would welcome funding for education or awareness raising campaigns.
A final challenge that almost all experienced relates to public consultations. They rarely receive feedback on the outcomes of a consultation or on the impact of their contributions. Being not given enough time to properly provide input was also an issue.
This paper was produced for the European Commission’s annual Fundamental Rights Colloquium on ‘Democracy in the EU’. The colloquium takes place in Brussels from 26 to 27 November.
It complements FRA’s January 2018 report on ‘Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU’ by providing first-hand evidence from civil society organisations of the difficulties they face.
The consultation confirms earlier findings and recommendations from FRA’s report. It also includes key recommendations from the Fundamental Rights Forum 2018.
Oct. 2018
Some 25 million children in the EU live in low income households where living conditions are unacceptable and hunger is common. Inadequate education and healthcare threaten their fundamental rights and deprive them of opportunities to escape the poverty cycle, finds the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in its latest report.
“Child poverty has no place in Europe, one of the world’s richest regions,” says FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty. “We have the means to help end the deplorable conditions facing so many of Europe’s children. Now we need action so the EU and its Member States honour their commitments to uphold the rights of children to give them a better future.”
The report, Combating child poverty: an issue of fundamental rights, highlights how one in four children under 18 are at risk of poverty or social exclusion across the EU. While it can affect all children, some groups, like Roma and migrant children fare even worse; a FRA survey revealed over 90% of Roma children in nine Member States experience poverty.
The report underlines how combating child poverty is also a matter of realising their fundamental rights. It also suggests what the EU and its Member States can do to address the issue:
The EU and its Member States should tighten existing laws and policies to meet legal standards under the UN’s Child Rights Convention and the European Social Charter. This would enable them to tackle child poverty better. They should prioritise the protection of vulnerable children and establish a European child guarantee scheme, as proposed by the European Parliament, to ensure each and every child has a decent home, diet, healthcare and education.
The EU should link funding to Member States to plans and measures to reduce child poverty, inequalities and the social exclusion of children. The European Commission should cover child poverty and child rights in its country specific recommendations following its review of Member States’ budgets and policies.
The European Parliament and EU Council should adopt the European Commission proposal to improve work-life balance for parents and carers to help promote the well-being of children. The EU and its Member States should improve the collection of data to help monitor and assess progress towards ending child poverty and social inclusion.
The report also identifies how the European Pillar of Social Rights can help ensure that children have the right to be protected from poverty. Discussions about the direction of EU funding also herald an opportunity to help children escape poverty.

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Time to end global crisis of impunity for crimes against journalists
by OHCHR, UNESCO, agencies
Nov. 2018
The killing of journalists around the world for doing their job is “outrageous” and should not become the “new normal” according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
In just over a decade, some 1,010 journalists have been killed for reporting the news, and in nine out of 10 cases, the perpetrators are never brought to justice. In 2018 alone, at least 88 journalists have been killed according to the UN.
Many thousands more have been "attacked, harassed, detained or imprisoned on spurious charges, without due process," Mr. Guterres said in a video message for The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, marked annually on 2 November.
The Secretary-General paid tribute to the reporters in the field “who do their jobs every day despite intimidation and threats.”
And he called on the international community “to protect journalists and create the conditions they need to do their work.”
To mark the International Day, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is launching an initiative to fuel awareness on the issue of journalists killed on the job. Called “Truth Never Dies,” it encourages people to share stories by and about fallen journalists to keep their legacies alive and to push for investigations into their deaths to be continued.
"The truth never dies. And neither must our commitment to the fundamental right to freedom of expression,” the UN Chief said, highlighting that when journalists are attacked “societies as a whole pay a price."
A study on global trends in media published by UNESCO in 2017 highlights that impunity for crimes against journalists remains the norm, and trends in kidnappings, disappearances and torture have shown substantial increases since 2012.
The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in September, calling on the international community to promote strategies that protect journalists and bring perpetrators of violence against the media to justice.
Nov. 2018
Time to end global crisis of impunity for crimes against journalists
Speaking ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, UN human rights experts strongly urge States to take firm steps to ensure accountability for violence and attacks against journalists, reversing and resisting the appalling trend of impunity. Their statement reads:
“Journalists around the world face threats and attacks, often instigated by government officials, organised crime, or terrorist groups. Political leaders incite hostility by framing reporters as ‘enemies of the people’ or ‘terrorists’.
Hundreds of journalists are detained or forcibly disappeared because of their journalist work. Governments conduct surveillance of journalists and undermine digital security as part of the daily attack on free and independent media. Press freedom organisations conservatively estimate that dozens of reporters have been killed this year alone.
States have not responded adequately to these crimes against journalists. Most recently, States and the international community, including the United Nations, have failed to address the enforced disappearance and murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. The only way forward is to establish an independent, transparent and credible investigation into his murder, one authorised by and reporting to the United Nations. Anything short of a complete investigation, recognised as such by the international community, will make a mockery of government claims of commitment to the safety of journalists.
Impunity for crimes against journalists triggers further violence and attacks. We urge States to comply with their obligations to conduct impartial, prompt, thorough, independent and effective investigations, including international investigations where necessary. Perpetrators, including those who order or otherwise bear responsibility, must be brought to justice and held to account. Victims and their families should have access to remedies.
As a matter of urgency, we call on all States to implement the international legal framework on safety of journalists. High-level commitments, such as the latest resolution on the safety of journalists adopted this year by the Human Rights Council, must be implemented. We call on all leaders worldwide to end their role in the incitement of hatred and violence against the media. These last weeks have demonstrated once again the toxic nature and outsized reach of political incitement against journalists, and we demand that it stop.”
*The UN experts: Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Vice Chair), Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Chair), Ms. Houria Es-Slami, Mr. Luciano Hazan, Mr. Henrikas Mickevicius, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

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