Whistle Blowing: Whistle-blowing (noun) is the act of telling the authorities or the public that the organization you are working for is doing something immoral or illegal (Collins English Dictionary)
Seeing the trailer for the upcoming movie THE FIFTH ESTATE about Julian Assange and his Wikileaks organisation this evening prompted me to think about “whistle-blowing” again. It is a subject that interests me greatly and something I strongly support and would expect any decent man or woman with morals to also support to some extent or another. Whilst I am open minded enough to consider the implications of certain secrets and truths being revealed, nation security matters for instance, and I accept that not everything can be an open book to the public, I strongly believe that unnecessary immoral and illegal practices within private, public and Government organisations should have an eagle eyed whistle blower standing by ready to roar like a lion.
Society seems split when it comes to the opinion of whistle-blowing. Certainly those at the heads of organisations seem dead against them and who can blame them? One man or woman with the bravery and morals to expose wrongdoing can topple even the most powerful of corporations. It seems some organisations are more accepting of whistle-blowers than others. The Government seems to welcome and encourage whistle-blowers from certain public sector organisations such as the NHS but strongly opposes and does it’s best to silence them in other organisations such as the Police Service.
In the Police Service officers are vehemently discouraged from speaking to the press or the public about internal matters and those that do so can expect to be investigated for bringing the force into disrepute or undermining public confidence. Several officers around the UK are currently being investigated for misconduct for blowing the whistle…ironic when the Police Whistle was first introduced for Police Officers to blow in times of trouble and to alert the public.
Whistle-blowers are often dismissed as trouble causers, disgruntled employees and of pursuing a personal vendetta. It is true that there are many who fit into these categories and many who simply lie and make things up and these people I can not abide. They are liars and attention seekers. However, when a true and honest whistle-blower takes a deep breath and really blows hard then people start to listen and changes start to happen.
I have met and spoken to numerous genuine blowers in the last few years and have the upmost respect for them all. Several months ago I met and spoke to Ian Foxley, an ex Army Officer and former Defence project manager who “blew the whistle” on an alleged corrupted $2BILLION Saudi communications deal. A true gent and a font of knowledge who would not stand back and watch corruption and fraud unfold despite being threatened with Saudi prison. I will add that our meeting was not in relation to whistle blowing but the subject simply cropped up.
Ian now helps run (I think he is the chairman but I am not certain) Whistle Blowers UK, an organisation set up to help support and advise current and potential whistle blowers. You can learn more about Ian, WBUK and the rest of the group here… http://www.whistleblowersuk.org/content/ian-foxley
Whistle Blowers routinely find themselves in trouble, warned, discouraged, threatened, sacked, bribed, smeared and disgraced and in some countries much worse. Once they cross that line there is no going back and it is because of this that they need much more protection in law and support form organisations such as WBUK. They are brave and selfless. As one female states in the video on the link above
“THERE WAS NO AMOUNT OF MONEY THEY COULD PAY TO SHUT ME UP AND THEY CAN SHOVE IT WHERE THE SUN DON’T SHINE”.
Another states she was advised by her own solicitor not to go ahead but whilst she knew that was probably good advice for herself it was NOT good for the thousands of people she was hoping to help by exposing wrongdoing.
The press, Government, scientists, behaviourists etc all talk about how media, especially violent films and games, impact upon and affect the behaviour and mindset of those who watch/play them. I believe (and hope) that when The Fifth Estate is released in the UK later this month many will watch, many will connect and relate and many more will find the strength and bravery to blow the whistle.
Heads of organisations affected by whistle-blowing, you need to ask yourselves the following two questions when making decisions, implementing new policy and enacting new procedure;-
1) If the public knew about this, would it undermine their confidence?
2) If this was made common knowledge, would it bring the organisation into disrepute?
If the answer to either of those questions is YES then I am afraid that it is YOU that is in the wrong for going ahead with it and NOT the brave and selfless whistle blower exposing your wrongdoing. It is YOU who ruins the reputation of your organisation and loses public confidence.
It is much easier to be honest but unfortunately that path is paved with much less gold.