Center for Investigative Journalism SCOOP Macedonia and the Youth Educational Forum jointly organized the Whistleblower Day on May 12 and 13 this year. The first day a conference was held on whistleblowing and challenges for the future, while the second day the youth organized motivational speeches on whistleblowers. The conference was opened by the EU Ambassador to North Macedonia David Gere, starting with a joke on his account, when the moderator mistakenly announced him as Richard Gere, the EU diplomat smiled and said, “If I were Richard Gere, you would probably not see me here with you”. Further, when he went through the serious part of the discussion, he emphasized that in his 25 years’ experience he had seen great progress in whistleblowing, but that there was still a long way to go to ensure real protection of whistleblowers. To him, whistleblowers are the heroes of every society. People who do not tolerate injustice are the most just people.
The European Union adopted the Whistleblowing Directive in 2019 and recommended to the member states to harmonize their legislations with the directive.
The Minister of Justice, Professor Nikola Tupanchevski, emphasized in his speech that North Macedonia was one of the first countries in Europe to adopt the law on whistleblowers in November 2015 and that protection began in 2016, although long after the adoption of the law we did not have any protection acts adopted. However, in the country there is at least some legislation to regulate whistleblowing as a social benefit. He stressed that the world had great indicators such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who set new values in the democratic processes in the world.
The history of protected whistleblowing in Southeast Europe began 6 years ago in Skopje. North Macedonia was the first country to adopt a whistleblowing protection law, which was a huge step forward, pointed out Arjan Dyrmishi, Coordinator of Southeast Europe Coalition on Whistleblower Protection. As important whistleblowing he singled out the case in Macedonia from 2015 when the employees in the security structures with their whistleblowing enabled significant changes with the resignation of the Government of Gruevski, the new elections, the Agreement with Greece, NATO membership. According to him, the number of whistleblowings is not always important, but the quality of their quality and the changes that follow.
Whistleblowing is a powerful corruption tool. The fight against corruption will get very powerful weapons through good practices that will provide protection to whistleblowers. Corruption is a challenge that all Balkan countries face, pointed out Desislava Gotskova, director of the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative, based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She added that they promoted anti-corruption tools in all Balkan countries. One of those tools is whistleblowing as a powerful tool in the hands of law enforcement. Powerful whistleblowing will feed law enforcement institutions with quality information and doses which will save a lot in the anti-corruption system. In return, as a society, we only need to protect whistleblowers.
State Commission for Prevention of Corruption is the most successful institution for whistleblowing, although the overall situation with whistleblower protection is not at the level it should be. Last year, 21 people reported to the SCPC, which although it is the most of all other external reporting institutions, is still too little for a country like North Macedonia, where corruption is a serious problem. The President of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Biljana Ivanovska emphasized that in the future more work had to be done on changes and harmonization of the domestic legislation with the 2019 EU whistleblowing directive and we should particularly work on its implementation.
In the next few blogs we will publish short summaries and key points from the conference speeches and participants.