Fresh momentum for Italian whistleblowers

Whistleblower protection is back on the agenda in Italy. After stalling in Senate following the 2016 government referendum, Italy’s first house has reopened the debate on last year’s legislative proposal that would introduce horizontal protection for Italian whistleblowers last week.

 

Proposed by members of the Five Star Movement (M5S), the law would protect whistleblowers in both the private and the public sector when making a disclosure on any kind of illegal conduct. While this would constitute a significant improvement for whistleblowers in Italy, where corruption is still considered rampant, the proposed law includes a number of shortcomings: Critics have pointed out that disclosure channels are not clearly defined, which could lead to confusion and additional risks for whistleblowers. Furthermore, a provision foreseeing a fund to support whistleblowers psychologically and/or financially has been taken out of the proposal.

 

The renewed debate coincides with another landmark event in support of whistleblowing in Italy. On October 12, former Ferrovie Nord employee Andrea Franzoso, who had blown the whistle on his manager in what can be considered a textbook example of institutional fraud, presented his newly published book “Il Disobbediente”. The autobiographical account of his experience as a whistleblower, prefaced by renowned journalist Milena Gabanelli, was officially launched during a celebratory meeting of supporters, among them President of the Senate Pietro Grasso as well as Raffele Cantone, director of Italy’s Anticorruption Agency (ANAC).

 

During the event, the actions of Franzoso were widely praised. He said that making a disclosure was his only choice and he would do it again despite suffering mobbing and being forced to leave his job. Gabanelli reminded the audience that “behind Franzoso’s story is the story of an entire country”, and stressed that the introduction of a long-awaited law on the issue is necessary to help change the culture and reduce corruption and nepotism in Italy. Similar statements were issued by Grasso, who called upon  Italian institutions to create more mechanisms incentivizing people to come forward.

 

With the widespread solidarity expressed for Andrea Franzoso, hopes are high that whistleblowers will receive better protection in the future, and can thus contribute to a more open and less corrupt Italian society.