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Whistleblowing is a duty

Whistleblowers reveal crimes, but are often treated as if they were the perpetrators or even as traitors.

We supposedly have laws to protect us from crimes, but unless there is evidence no one can be charged. When people conspire to cover up crimes, no one will get to know about them, unless someone breaks ranks. When those crimes are committed by people on the public payroll, those who reveal the crime are called whistleblowers. They are betraying their colleagues who have betrayed the public's trust. However, the whistleblowers are often treated as if they are traitors to their country even though they exposed the real traitors. Those who expose corporate crimes are similarly mistreated.

Whether it be exposing of widespread illegal government surveillance of a country's own citizens, illegal spy agency bugging of a foreign government for the gain of commercial interests, illegal use of taxation data to create fake debts to harass welfare recipients, or exposing war crimes, their whistleblowers have been subject to years of persecution by the governments performing the crimes, despite the obvious public benefits of the exposure. Often the treatment exceeds the punishment, if any, given to the perpetrators.

This is perverse because when a public official performs a crime while on duty, those who expose that crime should be immune from retribution or prosecution because those crimes should be exposed so that measures are taken to prevent similar ones in future. However, we know that elected governments, organisations and people are sensitive to bad publicity, so do not want such crimes publicly exposed. We saw this with the Catholic Church and other institutions moving pedophiles around to avoid the bad publicity that would ensue if their crimes became known.

There are not enough enforcers of the law to know about all the crimes being committed, and so they are reliant upon the public to inform them, but when it comes to when those enforcers do the crimes, governments close ranks around them, try to cover up the crimes, and scapegoat the informers instead, just to save face. Instead of serving the public interest, they are betraying the public again. They become complicit in the crime and rope in the public as their accomplices by portraying the whistleblowers as somehow being the traitors to deflect from their own complicity.

Whistleblowing should be seen as a duty and not a crime. It is through revealing the crimes of government or organisation officials that we are able to take action to stop the opportunities for such crimes in future. Democracies thrive when there is trust in the elected governments. There is enough people and organisations trying to overturn democracy that we don't need politicians betraying that trust by their covering up of crimes and persecution of whistleblowers.

Democracies are a balance between the freedom of their citizens and restricting the freedoms of those who threaten others' freedom. Those charged with keeping that balance must be meticulous in making sure their decisions and actions are fair and appropriate to the threat to those freedoms. Those public officials who do not act fairly are a direct threat to democracy and should be prosecuted for crimes or removed for misconduct. Those who expose that unfairness should be lauded.

Independent agencies that investigate unfair actions by government officials are now seen as an essential part of keeping governments accountable. They need whistleblowers to tell them of wrongdoing in government, just like police need the public to tell them of crimes. Relying solely upon police or corruption bodies to find crimes would require them to be much larger agencies, which would most likely to lead to more restriction of freedoms and more opportunities for unfair actions, as we have seen with police forces when they are given more powers.

We have seen how democracies rely upon governments not being corrupt, but we don't want to have large enforcement agencies as we know that the power they wield can be a corrupting influence. The balance is to keep them large enough to do their job, but not so much that they become a threat in themselves. Whistleblowers help keep that balance by highlighting unfairness without being embedded members of an enforcement agency, which would be expensive and undermine morale if discovered. They are not spies, but oblivious enthusiastic employees, until they see the unfairness. Treat them fairly!

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