09.12.2019

Anti-Corruption Act 2019 to be given to newspaper Postimees and investigative journalists Martin Laine and Oliver Kund for consistent work on whistleblower protection

Tallinn, Estonia

During the conference "Fish Rots from the Head Down: Tone at the Top in the Private Sector" held on International Anti-Corruption Day, Transparency International Estonia announced the Anti-Corruption Act of 2019. The award was given to the Estonian daily Postimees and investigative reporters Martin Laine and Oliver Kund for consistent work on the issue of whistleblower protection while reporting on alleged fraud of EU funds in Tallinn Technical University.

"We especially acknowledge the newspaper and the reporters for consistently standing up in the name of the whistleblower. Currently, Estonian legislation lacks a comprehensive framework on whistleblower protection. In this context, awareness-raising of whistleblower rights and publication of any potential retaliation is vital," said Erkka Jaakkola, the Chairman of the Board of TI Estonia.

"Whistleblowers are witnesses and the aim of reporting is to protect public interest. The whistleblower can not and does not have to know the result of a full investigation because he or she is not an investigator. Throughout the case of Tallinna Technical University we've seen that it is easier to focus on the messenger than the message, putting the whistleblower under personal attack. On the contrary, it should be in all of our interests to encourage reporting."

"Although we acknowledge the newspaper and the reporters for excellent work, we would like to stress that the whistleblower should not have had the need to come public in the first place. If an organization has functional reporting channels and mechanisms, internal communication and relevant follow-up measures, the problems will be solved right at the source. This way the whistleblower does not have the need to turn to media or law enforcement," Jaakkola added.

In addition to the high-profile whistleblowing case, two other important nominees were named by the members of TI Estonia.

"Although we could only select one Act, we would hereby like to acknowledge the investigative programme "Eyewitness" ("Pealtnägija") and the reporter Anna Pihl for significant input to exposing conflict of interest and corruption risk on ministerial level," Jaakkola added.

Pihl's "Minister of Rural Affairs pressured subordinates in connection the case of M.V. Wool" (October 23, 2019) helped to uncover a significant corruption risk while the reporting by the team of "Eyewitness" made public the conflict of interest of the adviser of the Minister of Rural Affairs in connection to a court case involving Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board (ARIB), an agency under the Ministry (November 8).

"Thirdly, members of TI Estonia nominated the initiative by the Ministry of Finance to create a manual for internal control mechanisms for local municipalities. This helps to fill a void in a sector that despite recognized issues in corruption prevention has been little supported with concrete tools," the Chairman of TI Estonia commented.

The Anti-Corruption Act is selected yearly by the members of TI Estonia since 2016. The recognition can be given to a person, an organization or an initiative that has significantly expanded the discussion around anti-corruption, has innovatively contributed to corruption prevention, or transformed an organization or a sector to be more resilient to corruption.

In 2018, the Anti-Corruption Act was not announced because members of TI Estonia did not find a person or an organization that would have acted out of their already expected tasks. Nevertheless, the organization did condemn the unauthorized naming of the Danske Bank's whistleblower by an Estonian newspaper.

In 2017, an art initiative headed by the Corruption Crime Bureau of the Police and Border Guard was selected as the Anti-Corruption Act. Within the project, art students had to visually depict corruption. The exhibition has since travelled to more than 12 locations across Estonia.

TI Estonia is an accredited chapter of the international anti-corruption movement Transparency International. TI Estonia is the only NGO in Estonia that explicitly works with the prevention and awareness-raising of corruption.

 

Rewatch the broadcast from the Anti-Corruption Day conference here.