Justice: Bundestag resolves better protection for whistleblowers

Whistleblowers from authorities and companies should be better protected against reprisals in the future.

Justice: Bundestag resolves better protection for whistleblowers

Whistleblowers from authorities and companies should be better protected against reprisals in the future. The Bundestag in Berlin passed a corresponding law with the votes of the traffic light parliamentary groups SPD, Greens and FDP. Union and AfD voted against, the left abstained. The law still has to go through the Bundesrat.

The law regulates reports of fraud, corruption and other abuses. Indications of a lack of loyalty to the constitution by employees in the public sector could also reach the right address more easily in the future - even if the specific case is not about criminal offences.

Authorities and companies must create new contact points if they have not yet done so. There it must also be possible to transmit a tip anonymously.

The information can relate to violations of environmental protection regulations or food safety regulations, for example. A lack of protection of personal data or violations of animal welfare regulations on farms could also be uncovered more easily.

Public service employees and any whistleblower who has concerns about contacting an internal office in their authorities or their company can make representations to the Federal Office of Justice. A new position will be created there specifically for this purpose.

Union: New arrangements as spongy

The organization Transparency International Germany praised improvements, but still sees room for improvement. It is crucial that there should also be anonymous reporting channels in the future, explained Sebastian Oelrich from Transparency. "Almost every major scandal has been reported by initially anonymous whistleblowers." According to Oelrich, the protection of whistleblowers could have been even better. "In certain areas it is difficult for potential whistleblowers to assess whether they are protected or not. This is because the scope of the law is limited and complex." From the organization's point of view, the law must apply to all legal violations and misconduct, the reporting or disclosure of which is in the public interest.

The Union criticized the new provisions as vague, there were also no incentives to create internal reporting channels and companies would face additional costs. CDU MP Martin Plum called the new regulations "a major employment program for our already overburdened courts".

The left-wing politician Clara Bünger praised progress, but also recalled the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, who in 2013 made spying activities of the US surveillance service NSA public. "A German Edward Snowden would not be protected under the planned law, because secret services are completely exempt, and authorities can simply sweep leads under the rug by classifying them as classified information." Fabian Jacobi from the AfD also complained that the new whistleblower protection should not apply here and warned of a tendency towards mutual surveillance.

SPD: "Trust in the security authorities strengthened"

The SPD MP Sebastian Fiedler, on the other hand, emphasized that the innovations would also strengthen trust in the security authorities. Till Steffen from the Greens recalled that some scandals only became public thanks to whistleblowers, such as the Cum-ex scandal, "the biggest tax robbery in our history".

Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) said that an effective protection system would be created, while at the same time the law would be "as less bureaucratic as possible". For example, companies could hire a law firm or an independent reporting office within their group. The authorities and companies themselves would also be protected, the minister emphasized. "Because early detection and intervention can avoid liability claims and damage to reputation that might be associated with later external disclosure."

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