On 27 November, Disruption Lab Network launched a new book Whistleblowing for Change: Exposing Systems of Power and Injustice (curated by Tatiana Bazzichelli) that includes a chapter from our executive director, Delphine Mishra-Halgand, on “How to Support Whistleblowers? The Signals Network Experience.” Here is a brief excerpt from Delphine’s chapter:
“Deciding what to tell and to whom can be paralyzing, and whistleblowers should not have to navigate these decisions in a vacuum. You need someone you can trust, who can connect you to resources, and who can help navigate through the legal, ethical, and personal issues associated with whistleblowing. I wish The Signals Network existed back in 2014.” – Tyler Shultz, Theranos whistleblower
There isn’t one universally applicable roadmap to blowing the whistle, even less to supporting and empowering whistleblowers. There are as many as there are whistleblowers. People who have taken the whistleblowing path before can share knowledge from their own experience, but each whistleblower has to navigate their own unique path.
Here is how I started my path, trying to support and empower whistleblowers. During my time as the US Director of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), I worked to advocate for press freedom rights worldwide, and for the release of journalists imprisoned or held hostage. From this perspective I observed the increasing crackdown on whistleblowers in the US and around the world. I witnessed the lack of support that whistleblowers face in comparison to the journalists they work with.
When the New York Times journalist James Risen was threatened with jail because the US Department of Justice (DOJ) wanted to force him to reveal who his source was in an embarrassing CIA failed operation he revealed, all the press freedom community (me included) worked hard to pressure the DOJ to drop their attempt to send him to jail. The DOJ finally gave up. In contrast, when James Risen’s alleged source, the CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison just for being in touch with him, the press freedom community disappeared almost completely. This shocked me and marked me deeply. Press freedom is not only about defending the rights of journalists; press freedom is about the rights of all of us to know and our duty to tell. I started campaigning to obtain Jeffrey’s release along his wife and other courageous advocates like Norman Solomon and Dr. Cornel West. My journey supporting whistleblowers started with Jeffrey Sterling. This opened my eyes, and then I was outraged by the retaliation faced by Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Reality Winner and many more.
These citizens have brought to light the most significant information of our time and still they face unprecedented retaliation. I realized that whistleblowers are key players in holding powerful interests accountable. We need more whistleblowers to come forward, we need more wrongdoings to be revealed if we want them to be corrected, and so we need to offer whistleblowers stronger safety nets…
To read the rest of Delphine’s chapter and other insights from whistleblower experts, you can purchase the book through transcript.