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19.06.2018

Kosovo adopts advanced draft law on whistleblowers 

By Emil Weber 

The Government of Kosovo approved advanced legislation to enhance the protection of whistleblowers on June 12, 2018. The draft law has yet to be passed by the parliament.

Kosovo government Meeting of Kosovo Government on June 5th, 2018 (photo: kryeministri-ks.net)

Kosovo is consistently ranked among the most corrupt countries in the Western Balkans by the Freedom House.

“Since Kosovo has high corruption indicators, it is logical to establish strong legal standards of whistleblowing protection which would help fight corruption”, said Flutura Kusari, media lawyer at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF). “The draft law on whistleblowers adopted by the government of Kosovo is one of the most advanced in Europe and is in line with the standards set by the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights”.

Supported by the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Commission (EU), the draft law introduces significant protection for whistleblowers and detailed procedure on whistleblowing in the public and private sectors.

With the new draft law, whistleblowers will be called in the Albanian language as “sinjalizues” a term similar to the wording used by the ECtHR in whistleblowing judgements. According to previous law, which is still in force, the whistleblowers are named as “informants” which in this context gives them a negative association with “spies”.

Article 12 - Types of whistleblowing

 Whistleblowing can be internal, external, or public;

1. reporting information to the employer is internal whistleblowing;

2. reporting information to a competent authority external whistleblowing;

3. revealing information to the media, non-governmental organisations, through the Internet, at a public meeting, or in any other way is public whistleblowing

The whistleblowers in Kosovo can now legally undertake internal whistleblowing, external whistleblowing to the competent national authority (the Anti Corruption Agency) and also public whistleblowing through the media and civil society. Under the previous legislation, whistleblowers blowing the whistle publicly did not enjoy legal protection as the law recognized only internal and external whistleblowing.

The draft law is introduced by the government following criticism of the EU in the 2018 annual report on Kosovo. “The current Law on Protection of Informants has still not been brought in line with international standards. Whistleblowing mechanisms and protection requirements need to be strengthened in law and in practice.”

The whistleblowers are broadly defined to include an employee at his or her workplace, an external contributor, a volunteer, a candidate for a job, and a contractor providing services. It also protects persons who support whistleblowers.

The law foresees a sanction of 20,000 Euros for any public institution employing more than 30 persons and each private firm with more than 50 employees for not naming a responsible official to receive information from whistleblowers, which will have to be administratively investigated within 45 days.

Article 26 - Misdemenaour provisions: 1. The competent court shall impose a fine which shall be no less than five hundred (500) euro and no more than twenty thousand (20,000) euro against the responsible public institution and private entity.

For the first time, the law makes it impossible for the employers to dismiss whistleblowers from their working position. It stipulated that no penal, civil or disciplinary procedure can be opened against whistleblowers for information raised. In addition, it considers null and void non-disclosure agreements made with the aim to prevent reporting information of public interest.

Furthermore, institutions on the sectors of national security, defence, intelligence and foreign relations for the first time will be obliged to introduce a special procedure for receiving and treating whistleblowing cases.

Kosovo’s Minister of Justice, Abelard Tahiri, told the government on June 12 that the law would enhance the protection of whistleblowers. “The articles of the project law are harmonized with the best practices and standards in Europe”, Tahiri said. “It is also very important in the fight against corruption and organised crime”.

Article 8 - protection of whistleblowers: 1. A whistleblower who reports or discloses information in accordance with the provisions of this law cannot be subject to criminal or civil liability or disciplinary proceedings.

Flutura Kusari of the ECPMF said Kosovo joins Ireland, Malta and Serbia who have also recently strengthened whistleblowing legislation. “Whistleblowers are also important to journalists and help them expose wrongdoings. It is important that all members of parliament vote the draft law no matter of their party lines”.

The European Commission had earlier in April reported that Kosovo was part of the Balkan countries with no progress made during the past year in the field of freedom of expression.





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