MEP Francis Zammit Dimech has been entrusted by the EPP Group in the European Parliament to serve as the Group’s Rapporteur on legislation concerning whistleblowers following the European Commission’s proposal of a new law to strengthen whistleblower protection across the EU.
Reacting to his appointment Zammit Dimech said “protection of whistleblowers is all about protecting EU citizens. After standing up for what is right and exposing breaches of EU law which harm society in general, whistleblowers face high risks of retaliation. It is therefore our duty to better protect these honest people of Europe.”
Emphasising the crucial role whistleblowers play in society, Zammit Dimech said that wasn’t it for whistleblowers scandals like the Panama Papers or Cambridge Analytica which affect EU citizens would have never surfaced.
In recent months, the Maltese government has refused to grant whistleblower status to former Pilatus Bank employee Maria Efimova – who Greek courts this week decided should not be extradited to Malta – and former Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) investigator Jonathan Ferris who this week sued government over its failure to provide him legal protection.
Both have come forward with information on corruption and money laundering involving top government officials, including the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat, minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.
Protection of whistleblowers is fragmented across the EU. In a report on Media Freedom and Pluralism, Zammit Dimech had outlined that whistleblowers are crucial for investigative journalism.
Leglisation, Zammit Dimech argued, had to be strengthened because the Maltese government was boasting of a whistleblowers act but in reality it was only using this act to protect and award tenders to whistleblowers that blow a whistle that pleased the government.
Zammit Dimech will be working closely with the lead Rapporteur Curzio Maltese with whom he collaborated closely in a report on Media Freedom and Pluralism. The proposed legislation will also be scrutinised by the Committee on Legal Affairs in which Zammit Dimech is also a member.
The proposed legislation seeks to establish safe channels for reporting, set new EU-wide standards for protection of whsilteblowers and develop mechanisms to protect whistleblowers against retaliation. The Committee which is responsible for media has been given until early October to prepare its position.