Whistleblower Campaign – Help 40 people fight corruption and get justice
“Whistleblowers often put the public good first at great personal risk. They can and do make a big difference in the fight against corruption and deserve our support, protection and admiration.”
(Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director, Transparency International)
“1 in 5 of the world’s 100 largest companies do not have confidential whistleblower mechanisms in place for all of their employees.”
(Source: Transparency International)
Corruption often goes unchallenged when people do not speak out about it. Witness accounts offer invaluable insights into corruption, and are powerful tools in the fight against it. From exposing multi-million dollar financial scams to dangerous medical practices, whistleblowers play a crucial role in saving resources and even lives.
But in Korea (South), blowing the whistle can carry high personal risk – there is little legal protection against dismissal or humiliation. Controls on information, libel and defamation laws, and inadequate investigation of whistleblowers’ claims deter people from speaking out.
Whistleblowers are less likely to report workplace misconduct when their employers do not provide clear internal reporting channels. And in some settings, whistleblowing carries connotations of betrayal rather than being seen as a benefit to the public. Ultimately, societies, institutions and citizens lose out when there is no one willing to cry foul in the face of corruption.
Whistleblowers are usually subject to retaliation from their organizations. Who dares become a whistleblower only to face suspension, layoff, or other retaliatory actions? There are many other whistleblowers who have had to undergo trials and tribulations, only for their courage to tell the truth. It’s time to take bolder measures to better protect whistleblowers.
WHISTLEBLOWERS: ORDINARY PEOPLE, EXTRAORDINARY ACTS
– Your boss is producing misleading financial statements. You raise concerns that this is unethical, even criminal, and are told to stop causing trouble or lose your job.
– You discover that government contracts are being won through secret kickback payments. The winning companies are using sub-standard building materials, putting lives at risk. The next day you are attacked, beaten and warned to keep quiet, for your family’s sake.
– A company you work with is dumping toxic waste into a local river. There are powerful interests at stake. Do you go public? Would it make a difference?
Faced with these choices, what would you do? And would you trust the system to protect you?
Every day, people are faced with such agonising decisions. Disturbingly, whistleblowers in most countries lack adequate, reliable legal protections to shield them from retaliation and provide them with a trustworthy system to report wrongdoing. Without protection, most people simply remain quiet – while funds are stolen, the environment is polluted, and crimes are committed with impunity. In many countries, those who do come forward are often harassed, physically abused or even killed.
The Story of Jong-Hoon Ahn
When Jong-Hoon Ahn reported corruption at his school, he knew he might get into trouble. The teacher of a Seoul high school revealed an admissions fraud in which his school allegedly violated regulations to accept unqualified students.
Because of Ahn’s reporting, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education conducted a special investigation in a Seoul high school and its corporate body.
Although the Education Office later confirmed the school’s fraudulent scheme, the school dismissed Ahn, claiming that he spread false information.
Ahn’s case shows: Almost everyone could become the victim of corruption since education is an integral part of our lives.
Transparency International-Korea (TI-Korea) awarded Jong-Hoon Ahn the Transparent Society Award 2014 and made his case public. In 2015, the Appeal Commission for Teachers declared his dismissal null and void and ordered the school to reinstate him. Today, Ahn is again teacher at his former High School.
Whistleblowers are invaluable in exposing corruption, fraud and mismanagement. Early disclosure of wrongdoing or the risk of wrongdoing can protect human rights, help to save lives and preserve the rule of law.
Safeguards also protect and encourage people willing to take the risk of speaking out about corruption. We must push countries to introduce comprehensive whistleblower legislation to protect those that speak out and ensure that their claims are properly investigated. Companies, public bodies and non-profit organizations should introduce mechanisms for internal reporting. And workplace reprisals against whistleblowers should be seen as another form of corruption.
Public education is also essential to de-stigmatise whistleblowing, so that citizens understand how disclosing wrongdoing benefits the public good. When witnesses of corruption are confident about their ability to report it, corrupt individuals cannot hide behind the wall of silence.
Projects and Activities
A key challenge in preventing and fighting corruption is to detect and expose bribery, fraud, theft of public funds and other acts of wrongdoing. One of the most direct methods of shining the light on corruption is whistleblowing. Unfortunately, whistleblowers commonly face retaliation in the form of harassment, firing, blacklisting, threats and even physical violence, and their disclosures are routinely ignored.
Transparency International believes that the individual right to freedom of expression includes the right to point out acts of wrongdoing – both in government and in private companies. Even beyond this basic right is the simple fact that people who step forward to disclose wrongdoing – particularly when public safety, health or resources are at stake – should be acknowledged and protected, not punished and ostracised.
To help to ensure that whistleblowers are adequately protected from reprisals, and to provide them with easy-to-access avenues to make their disclosures, Transparency International is engaged in a wide range of advocacy, public awareness and research activities in all regions of the world.
Our International Whistleblower Initiative brings together the world’s leading whistleblower experts, advocates and organisations in a united effort to strengthen whistleblower protection and ensure disclosures actually lead to change. Providing legal and other expert advice to organisations and government agencies, the initiative raises awareness of the importance of whistleblowing as an effective corruption-fighting tool, partners with journalists to report on whistleblowing, and works to overcome the political, cultural and social barriers to whistleblowing.
What we are doing about it in South Korea
Our goal is for whistleblowers everywhere to be protected from retaliation, for their disclosures to bring about positive change, and for whistleblowing to be widely used as a practical tool to fight corruption.
We work to empower and protect people to blow the whistle in the following ways:
Identifying the problems: We research whistleblower protection, advising government agencies, companies, whistleblower organisations and researchers on how protection can be improved.
Raising awareness: Using channels such as radio, participatory theatre, film and educational workshops, we work with communities to foster positive attitudes to whistleblowing and promote it as a viable method of resisting corruption.
Building communities for change: We are building a chain of knowledge and experiences that connects the legal experts who write whistleblower laws, to the advocates who lobby government officials to implement them, to the agencies that enforce them, to the organisations that use these laws to protect whistleblowers, and ultimately to the whistleblowers themselves.
Tracking legislative and advocacy developments: We are serving as a clearinghouse for whistleblower experts and advocates – assisting them in their work to improve whistleblower laws, protections and resources. We focus on strategies and messages that succeed in Country A and B and adapting them to e.g. South Korea. As much as any anti-corruption tool, whistleblowing requires global cooperation and learning. Transparency International is at the centre of this circle.
How can you help?
From rural villages to big cities, we are working to help people break the silence and stand up against corruption. Their message is clear – we are fighting back. And year on year, their numbers are growing. But they need help. Financial support will broaden our work on whistleblowing and increase our ability to help those who need it most.
With only 10.000 KRW, you could help TI-Korea to assist whistleblowers like Jong-Hoon Ahn (please see teacher Ahn’s story above): We organize awareness education campaigns at high schools and educational institutes and provide integrity training for students, parents, teachers and mentors. We offer seminars to provincial offices, ministries, businesses and the media, with the aim of promoting ethics education, whistleblower protection and anti-corruption policies.
Please click the PayPal button below to make your tax-deductible donation now. If TI-Korea could win 200 supporters like you donating 10.000 KRW each, we could mobilize more than 40 people to create awareness and fight injustice. Such measures are the first step toward transforming Korea into a clean and transparent society.
Your donation could help any of the following:
• Community education and awareness-raising activities to improve social attitudes to whistleblowing
• Workshops and trainings for governments and the private sector to improve their anticorruption and whistleblowing infrastructure
• Research on the implementation of whistleblower laws to identify areas for improvement
• Advocacy work for strong whistleblower protection laws and their enforcement
• Partnering with investigative journalists to support whistleblowers and expose abuses of power
• Collaborating with organisations that assist whistleblowers to build an international support network.
No-one should have to confront corruption alone. Please become a part of this global movement for change and support our work. Please click here to make your tax-deductible donation now.
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If you are willing but wondering how to support TI-Korea’s various programmes and activities, you may take a look at the following items with brief descriptions. For further details, please click any of the links available describing each item.
Your generous support for our programmes and activities will be highly welcomed and appreciated. We are earnestly seeking for donors who can support particular projects, programs, and activities including office administrative expenditures.
We welcome everybody who has various backgrounds, religion, affiliation, orientations, nationalities or works who are willing to become a regular member/supporter of our organization. As a regular member, we require you to generously offer a small amount on a monthly basis.
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You can also support us by joining in our regular or case-to-case basis activities. Such activities may include Transparent Society Award (every December), youth camps or seminars, among other activities. The photo shows an integrity class given to elementary children.
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