Whistleblowing and the press

Whistleblowing to the press is a tricky subject.  Throughout history, information has been leaked to the press to expose malpractice, illegality and wrong doing.  From Watergate, to WikiLeaks and most recently the Panama Papers, history’s biggest data leak. Many see the press as the first port of call to reveal information that, they feel, should be in the public domain.  

The press has a duty to share information that should be available in the public domain, to reveal corruption and draw attention to illegality.  However, it must also be recognised that the press make money from these stories and may not be the safest place for you to make your disclosure if you want to ensure you are going to be protected.

The press thrives on stories from the public.  In many cases, stories from whistleblowers are the juiciest and guarantee sales.  Newspapers go to great lengths to encourage the public to reveal their stories directly to them.  The Sun, for example, has launched its own ‘whistleblower’s charter’, creating anonymous and secure online tools for the public to disclose information and often offers financial incentives that can be very alluring.  However, they do not make the public aware that in many cases, they will not be protected by law if they make their disclosure to them, rather than through the proper channels.

How can you make sure you’re protected?

The UK whistleblowing law, the Public Disclosure Act 1998, protects all workers who whistleblow on their organisations.  As long as your disclosure is deemed in the public interest and is disclosed to the right person, in the right way and in ‘good faith’, you will be protected by law from unfair dismissal or unfair treatment in the work place.

You should report any illegality or malpractice such as criminal activity, health and safety risks, damage to the environment, miscarriages of justice or the covering up of wrong doing.  Disclosures however should be made via the proper channels.  The first port of call is to reveal your disclosure to your employer in line with the company’s whistleblowing policy.  If you feel that you cannot go directly to your employer through fear of unfair treatment or that information will be covered up, you can make your disclosure to other people such as a lawyer or governing body.  Government guidelines on whistleblowing highlight that in the majority of cases, you will not be protected if you make you disclosure directly to the media.

If you require further information or support, there are many charities and organisations who can help:

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