International Handbook on Whistleblowing Research
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International Handbook on Whistleblowing Research

Edited by A. J. Brown, David Lewis, Richard E. Moberly and Wim Vandekerckhove

In the modern age of institutions, whistleblowing is now established as one of the most important processes – if not the single most important process – by which governments and corporations are kept accountable to the societies they are meant to serve. This essential Handbook provides researchers and policy makers from around the world with a comprehensive overview of the state of our knowledge regarding this vital process. In addition to drawing from the last 30 years of progressively more systematic research into whistleblowing, it also provides cutting-edge analysis of the conceptual and practical challenges that researchers will want to confront in the next decade.
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Chapter 5: Whistleblowing duties

Jos Leys and Wim Vandekerckhove


Recent research suggests that whistleblowing is increasingly framed as a duty, or as mandatory, rather than as a right. Hassink et al. (2007) use a sample of European-listed companies, showing that 66 per cent frame internal whistleblowing as an employee obligation. Moberly and Wylie (2011) analyze a US sample showing that 96 per cent of codes of conduct adopted by companies phrase internal whistleblowing as an employment obligation. We have come a very long way, then, since whistleblowing was formerly portrayed either as the heroic assumption of the upright individual or as a treacherous, subversive breach of loyalty. The recent trend applies to various members of organizations, with different types of contracts and different types of professional status. However, the discharging of these duties is not evident, as the risk of retaliation is always on the cards. Vandekerckhove and Tsahuridu (2010) argue that the discursive evolution on whistleblowing during the past 30 years makes it conceptually possible for organizations to impose a duty on their employees to report suspected wrongdoing internally, to shed off (or pass on) their duties towards society. However, they warn that the hazardous practicalities of erroneous reporting and the lack of safe organizational cultures pose serious questions to this conceptual possibility. Tsahuridu and Vandekerckhove (2008) point out that there is a blurred line between whistleblowing rights and whistleblowing duties. Their philosophical analysis has concrete iterations in policy making, where legislation and guidelines on how to design and implement whistleblowing policies often take opposing positions on the issue (Vandekerckhove and Lewis 2012).

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