Madrid, September 15, 2022 – 20 members of the Coalición Pro Acceso and 5 international organisations have sent the Spanish Government and parliamentary groups a Decalogue of Recommendations to strengthen Spain’s draft law on protection of whistleblowers.
The draft law was first released by the Ministry of Justice as part of a public consultation held in March 2022. This draft law contained important gaps and loopholes that, if implemented in that form, would mean weakened protection of whistleblowers in practice. The Council of Ministers has now approved a new text based on this draft law, however, this text has not yet been made public.
Access Info, Hay Derecho, Xnet, Blueprint for Free Speech, with other members of the Coalición Pro Acceso, a network that promotes the right of access to information, and Whistleblowing International Network (WIN), a platform of organisations for the defence of whistleblowers, analysed the draft law and created a Decalogue of Recommendations.
The recommendations establish 10 key areas that need to be modified to increase the protection and legal certainty of whistleblowers. The recommendations add to the comments made by these four leading organisations during the public consultation on the draft law in March 2022.
In addition to the weaknesses within the text, the transposition of the European Directive 2019/1937 on the protection of whistleblowers into the Spanish legal system is late. The EU established 17 December 2021 as the deadline for the transposition. The eight-month delay by the executive has already led to the opening of an infringement procedure against Spain.
These recommendations, prepared by members of civil society with extensive experience in cases of protection of whistleblowers, lay out the following necessary amendments to the draft law:
- Removal of any conditionality regarding the motivation of the whistleblower for reporting. Instead, the principle of “reasonable belief in the truth” should be invoked, as defined by the Directive, and the burden of proof reversed.
- Define the concepts of “public interest” and, in particular, “retaliation” to avoid restrictive interpretations, including situations such as unfair treatment, coercion, intimidation, or discrimination, and remove any time limitation for protection, since whistleblowers often suffer retaliation for many years.
- Ensure that whistleblowers fall within the scope of protection of the law regardless of whether or not they maintain an employment or professional relationship with the organisation they have reported.
- Guarantee the anonymity and security of the reporting person, establishing mandatory technical characteristics for the channels, and also allowing them to choose, without conditions, whether to report through the internal channels of the organisation they are reporting on or externally, such as through the future Independent Whistleblower Protection Authority.
- Guarantee that whistleblowers have access to specialised and free legal assistance, psychological support, medical coverage, and economic and material support as a general rule and not just in exceptional circumstances.
- Implement mechanisms to guarantee the impartiality and independence of the future Independent Whistleblower Protection Authority, such as by preventing the Presidency being appointed by the Ministry of Justice, and ensuring that it is accountable to Parliament.
We urge the Spanish Parliament to take these recommendations into account when approving the final draft of the law to ensure strong protection of whistleblowers in Spain.
Signatories to the Decalogue of Recommendations:
Blueprint for Free Speech
Asociación Andaluza para la Defensa de los Animales (ASANDA)
Asociación de Archiveros Españoles en la Función Pública
Asociación de la Prensa de Madrid (APM)
Asociación de Usuarios de la Comunicación (AUC)
Asociación para la Comunicación e Información Medioambiental (ACIMA)
Associació Ciutadania i Comunicació (ACICOM)
Confederación de Consumidores y Usuarios (CECU)
Federación de Sindicatos de Periodistas (FeSP)
Fundación Global Nature
Innovación y Derechos Humanos (ihr.world)
Plataforma en Defensa de la Libertad de Información (PDLI)
RADA – Red de Abogados para la Defensa Ambiental
SEO – Birdlife
Sociedad Española de Documentación e Información (SEDIC)
Transparency International España
Whistleblowing International Network (WIN)
Oživení z.s., República Checa
Centre for Free Expression, Toronto University
Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN)
Spokespersons of the initiative:
Access Info – Patricia González – Access Info’s comments to the public consultation.
Blueprint for Free Speech – Bruno Galizzi – Blueprint for Free Speech’s comments to the public consultation.
Hay Derecho – Tábata Peregrín – Hay Derecho’s comments to the public consultation.
Xnet – Simona Levi – Xnet’s comments to the public consultation.