Whistleblowers — insiders who expose corrupt or illegal activities — are an important source of information for journalists everywhere. From their position inside governments, companies, and other organizations, they can provide crucial leads, evidence, and sometimes “smoking guns” that expose everything from fraud and waste to criminal conspiracies and war crimes.
It’s important for journalists to identify the motives of whistleblowers and to verify their information. Equally essential is knowing how to best protect them as sources. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of information on whistleblowing, including a growing number of NGOs with expertise around the world.
To help journalists to navigate this challenging terrain, GIJN has created the following list of resources. The information below was gathered, in part, from the Whistleblowing International Network and the National Whistleblowers Center. If you think a group or resource should be included, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whistleblowing is an act of a man or woman who, believing in the public interest, overrides the interest of the organization he/she serves to publicly blow the whistle if the organization is involved in corrupt, illegal, fraudulent, or harmful activity.
— Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and activist
Whistleblowing International Network is an international network of NGOs and civil society groups working in the field of whistleblower protection. The London-based WIN provides a platform for members to share legal and practical expertise, develop democratic responses to whistleblowing at domestic and international levels, and support increased capacity to protect whistleblowers worldwide.
National Whistleblowers Center is a Washington, D.C.-based, non-profit that sponsors advocacy, education, and assistance projects, including an online database of whistle blowing laws and resources country by country. The NWC also has a small international program that works with journalists, free speech advocates, lawyers, and government officials.
Transparency International works with government, business, and civil society to stop corruption and promote transparency, accountability, and integrity. TI has more than 100 national chapters around the world with its international secretariat in Berlin. Three national TI offices have particular expertise on whistleblowing: Accion Ciudadana in Guatamala, Transparency International Ireland, and Transparency International Russia.
The Government Accountability Project, based in Washington, D.C., works with the United Nations, the World Bank, and other multilateral clients on whistleblowing issues. Its efforts include training and education programs on anti-corruption legislation and witness protection. Since 1977, GAP has helped more than 5,000 public and private-sector whistleblowers.
The Associated Whistleblowing Press (AWP) is an international network that provides location organizations, journalists, individuals, and media outlets with technical solutions, contacts, advocacy services, and consulting. It aims to to promote cooperation and interaction among different local whistle-blowing initiatives. A new organization founded in 2012, the AWP has two members: Iceland’s Ljost and Spain’s filtra.la.
Tips and Tools
GlobaLeaks is an open-source whistleblowing framework that can help media organizations, activist groups, public agencies, and corporations. Run by the Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights in Milan, GlobaLeaks provides software tools for initiatives to support the practice of whistle blowing.
Leakdirectory.org is a community-editable wiki that contains a comprehensive list of whistleblowing sites along with useful links and information on the topic of whistleblowing.
Secure Drop is an open-source whistleblower submission system managed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation that media organizations use to securely accept documents from anonymous sources. The Foundation, run out of San Francisco, also offers technical assistance and training for using Secure Drop.
The International Anti-Corruption Conference is a global forum bringing together representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector to discuss the challenges of corruption. The conference typically features whistlebowers and related issues. Run by the IACC team based at Transparency International, the conference is held every two years.
Working With Whistleblowers: panel at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference. Both whistleblowers and journalists explained the challenges they face when working together. Journalists and whistleblowers have a tight-knit yet complex relationship. Although both need each other, their exchanges are often tense. Check out the session recap here. Video here.
Organizations by Country
AfriLEAKS is run by an alliance of African news organisations that use a secure dropbox for leaks. Individuals can send us documents and select which of its member organisations should perform an investigation. It’s a joint project of the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting with the Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights.
Open Democracy Advice Centre’s mission is to promote open and transparent democracy; foster a culture of corporate and government accountability; and educate citizens on human rights. The Centre promotes transparency, enhances access to information and open data, and supports whistleblowers.
Whistleblowing Austria was established in 2011 as an organization to help citizens take action to disclose wrongdoings and misconduct.
Whistleblowers Network is a volunteer membership organization created in 2006 by journalists and whistleblowers. The association advises and serves whistleblowers, researchers, and journalists when appropriate. The site is a platform for information on whistleblowing and hosts a blog with daily updated news.
K Monitor Watchdog for Public Funds was founded in 2007 as a forum for keeping Hungarian and international corruption-related cases in the news. The association promotes the idea of an information society through investigative journalism, and the website runs a database for journalists, as well as resources for whistleblowers.
Transparency International Ireland was founded in 2004 and works to create a “level playing field” for the public and private sectors. Its mission is to empower people through education, information, and research.
Advice Centre for Whistleblowers was established in 2012 to provide support for whistleblowers through an advice hotline.
Stefan Batory Foundation is an independent private Polish foundation established in 1988 with a mission to build an open, informed, and democratic society.
Transparency International-Russia, founded in 1999, mobilizes civil society, including media, to fight corruption and work to institutionalize principles of transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors.
Public Concern at Work was established in 1993. It aims to help make whistleblowing work so that dangers, wrongdoing, and serious risks that threaten the public good are deterred or at least detected before serious damage is caused. PCW runs a free confidential advice line, provides support and services to related organizations, and engages in policy work and public education activities.
The Whistler is a fellowship alliance that brings together Compassion in Care and the Centre for Investigative Journalism with the intention of protecting all whistleblowers regardless of race, religion, or politics. It is an organization by whistleblowers and for whistleblowers that offers professional support, advice, and assistance on legal, emotional, and financial matters.
Accion Ciudadana was founded in 1996 and has been a Transparency International chapter since 2006. It is a civil society organization working for transparency and integrity in Guatemala.
MexicoLeaks is a platform backed by eight Mexican organizations: Animal Politico, emeequis, Másde131, Periodistas de a Pie, Poder, Proceso, R3D, and Arestegui Noticias.
Canadians for Accountability assists whistleblowers, educates and promotes an understanding of whistleblowing among Canadians, and promotes a culture of truth, transparency, and integrity in Canada’s public and private sector institutions.
Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform is a Canadian public-interest organization that supports legislation and management practices that protect whistleblowers.
Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, public interest law firm that supports the practice of whistleblowing.
Project on Government Oversight (POGO) is a Washington, D.C.-based, independent watchdog organization working with whistleblowers, journalists, and government officials to realize good government reforms.
National Whistleblowers Center is a Washington, DC-based, non-profit organization that sponsors advocacy, education, and assistance projects on whistleblowing.