"Many recent scandals may never have come to light if insiders hadn't had the courage to speak out. But those who did took enormous risks. So if we better protect whistleblowers, we can better detect and prevent harm to the public interest such as fraud, corruption, corporate tax avoidance or damage to people's health and the environment. There should be no punishment for doing the right thing," European Commission's First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said, as quoted in the press release.
The proposal is also meant to protect those who act as sources for investigative journalists, helping to ensure freedom of expression, Timmermans added.
The EU Commission believes that whistleblowers play a significant role in "uncovering unlawful activities that damage the public interest," and therefore, it is necessary to protect them from intimidation and retaliation, according to the press release. In particular, whistleblowers are expected to be exempted from liability for disclosing information.
Under the proposed legislation, all companies with more than 50 employees or with an annual turnover of over 10 million euros ($12.2 million) will be obliged to set up an internal procedure to handle whistleblowers' reports. All state, regional and municipal institutions are also supposed to be bound by the law.
Whistleblowers turned out to be behind the recent major scandals, including the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal, which revealed that information of millions of Facebook users were harvested without their permission, and the Panama Papers leak, which exposed secret financial information on offshore entities and accounts.