Whistleblowing in Serbia – PCaW attends Pištaljka Conference

17th November 2016

‘’It was a great honour to be invited to contribute to whistleblowing group Pištaljka’s first conference on whistleblowing in Belgrade in late October opened by Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.

Serbian whistleblowing site Pištaljka (which translates to ‘whistle’) was set up in 2009 as a response to widespread censorship at the country’s biggest daily newspaper - journalists for the paper claimed they faced increasing censorship and political pressure when going about their work.

At the conference in Belgrade, PM Aleksandar Vucic said he was proud to be marking the first anniversary of the enactment of whistleblower protection legislation in Serbia. The law is far reaching and has clear requirements on organisations and regulators to protect and act on information received by whistleblowers. It was drafted following extensive consultation with civil society and state institutions, many judges have been trained in the principles bolstering the legislation and Pištaljka have never been busier. Founded by two former journalists Pištaljka is based on the premise that those who witness malpractice corruption, risk and wrongdoing need help to raise their issue and get it addressed - principles that are close to my heart as they are also the basis for all the work we do here at PCaW.

So how do we make sure that individuals who witness malpractice are listened to? How do we ensure they are not trashed in the process of raising their concern? How do we change the perception that to be a whistleblower is a dangerous and/or futile activity?

The conference attempted to answer some of these questions but we also heard some pretty shocking tales - doctors bribed by funeral authorities and not performing CPR, cancer waiting lists being filled by fee paying foreign patients to the detriment of local citizens, taxpayers' money funding projects that are doomed to fail because corrupt officials have stolen all the money.

While it is clear that, like in the UK, there is much to be done in Serbia to normalise and champion whistleblowing and whistleblowers, there was an air of optimism in a subject that rarely gets hands on input from Government once a law has been enacted. In Serbia there seems to be a different approach and a real will to change things for the good.

Chief Executive Cathy James, OBE