What is a "whistleblower"?

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What is a “whistleblower”?

The word can describe a person who knows about something bad or illegal that happens inside an organisation, and then reports this. Sometimes, there is a difference between people who report this type of information without giving their names – they can be called a “source”; and people who give their names – a “whistleblower”. For example, Chelsea Manning was first a ‘source’, when she gave information, without her name, on Wikileaks. But then she became a ‘whistleblower’ when Adrian Lamo gave her name. And Julian Assange is not really a whistleblower - he's a publisher who gives a space for whistleblowers to talk to the media.


© Ben Jennings/Cartoon Movement

Did you know...

In Britain, they asked questions to 1,000 whistleblowers and found that after they talked about the problem in the organisation:

19% suffered some disciplinary action or demotion (given a job that was less important), 15% lost their job, 74% said nothing was done about the problem.

In India:

about 150 whistleblowers were harassed or jailed in the past 5 years, about 20 were killed.

In China:

15% of those who report corruption in the Chinese government are unhappy girlfriends of government officials.


The biggest ever reward to a whistleblower was $14million – to the person who helped get back a lot of money to investors, paid out by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Do this quiz to find out if you could be a whistleblower: http://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2014/04/01/quiz-whistleblower/

To take action on whistleblowing:


International Wikileaks: wikileaks.org

International Whistleblowers, based in Aotearoa /NZ but international in scope: internationalwhistleblowers.com

Whistleblowing Network, an international network of NGOs: whistleblowingnetwork.org

Amnesty International: amnesty.org

PEN International: pen-international.org

Electronic Frontier Foundation: eff.org

Aotearoa/New Zealand International Whistleblowers: internationalwhistleblowers.com

Australia Whistleblowers Australia: whistleblowers.org.au, plus The Whistle newsletter, bmartin.cc/dissent/contacts/au_wba/

Britain Public Concern at Work: pcaw.org.uk

Whistleblowers UK: whistlebloweruk.org

The Whistler: thewhistler.org

Canada FAIR: fairwhistleblower.ca

United States GAP (Government Accountability Project): whistleblower.org

Pvt Manning Support Network: bradleymanning.org


Whistleblowing: A Practical Guide by Brian Martin (updated 2013), free to download at: bmartin.cc/pubs/13wb.html

The Corporate Whistleblower’s Survival Guide: A Handbook for Committing the Truth by Tom Devine and Tarek F Maassarani (Berrett-Koehle, 2011)

The Art of Anonymous Activism: Serving the Public While Surviving Public Service, a joint effort of US whistleblower organizations. Available from GAP: whistleblower.org

5 TOP TIPS for people who want to be whistleblowers:

● Talk to a whistleblowing charity for advice BEFORE you take action.

● Keep to facts and what you know; write everything down and keep evidence.

● Make sure you know why you are doing this – don’t confuse private problems with public worries.

● Be careful – the organisation often fights back and whistleblowers often have many problems if they trust too much.

● Prepare well – carefully choose the time and place for whistleblowing and how you do it.

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, and to read more, please see: http://newint.org/features/2014/04/01/keynote-whistleblowers/