As a French Senate commission gears up to examine the Sapin 2 Bill offering legal protection for whistleblowers, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has asked senators to bolster the bill's protections and address its flaws.
The definition of the circumstances under which and to whom data can be leaked is too restrictive in the proposed legislation, RSF said in a release timed to mark the first year of lawyer and former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling's 3.5-year prison sentence for allegedly passing classified information to a journalist at New York Times. It would also ban leaks having to do with national defense secrets and restricts “the possibility of leaking directly to a journalist.”
The group urged senators to strengthen the bill's protection by, among other things, ensuring that leaked data isn't grounds for prosecution or even dismissal, taking measures to keep a whistleblower's identity hidden and putting the onus on the accuser to prove that a whistleblower didn't act in good faith if he or she didn't use established channels to report a transgression.
“If the whistleblower responds that he or she believed the channels to be ineffective or dangerous, the burden of proof should lie with those making the allegations,” the release said. “They should have to prove that this belief was not the reason for the failure to use these channels.”
RSF also called for legislators to establish “specific penal sanctions…for those responsible for reprisals against a whistleblower.”