UN-Report requests protection for whistle-blowers

Gianna Iacino

Mr David Kaye is the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. He was appointed by the Human Rights Council, an inter-governmental body within the UN system.

As an independent expert he has to examine and report on issues related to the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

In his report from 8 September 2015, Mr Kaye addresses the protection of sources of information and whistleblowers central to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the first major UN report regarding the protection of sources.


Mr Kaye emphasises the importance of the right to access to information for democracies and public debates. In many cases the access to information is only possible through sources of information and whistleblowers. Therefore, according to the report, they need and deserve the strongest protection by law and governments. Instead, however, many sources and whistleblowers are being intimidated by officials. And while there are many positive developments in legal norms protecting sources and whistleblowers, too many laws have loopholes.


Presenting the report, Mr Kaye states: "Silence is too often the only safe option left to them [sources and whistleblowers], with the public left in the dark and wrongdoing left unpunished."

The report contains guidelines and recommendations for States and International Organisations on dealing with whistleblowers and sources. The report demands for example, that national legal frameworks should be aligned with international Human Rights Norms and protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources. Any restrictions on confidentiality must be genuinely exceptional and implemented by judicial authorities only. Furthermore, governmental officials should publicly recognise the contribution that sources and whistleblowers make to society.

Gianna Iacino, LL.M., is a Researcher at the Institute of European Media Law (EMR), Saarbrücken/Brüssel.

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The report is available here.

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Source information: This article was originally published by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom –