"For every truth there is a source" Vladimir Radomirovic, NF >15, brings whistleblowers and journalists together at a conference in Belgrade.
WHISTLEBLOWERS FROM Serbia, Bosnia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands had just shared intensely emotional stories with an international audience of journalists, activists, prosecutors, and judges. We almost lost English translation to the tears of the interpreter as a whistleblower explained how she had received death threats and how her being under police protection affected her two children.
As the shocked audience discussed what had been said at the panel, an upbeat Serbian whistleblower approached me and said: "Now I know I'm not crazy. You see these things happen all over the world."
This is what we were hoping would happen.
Pistaljka ("The Whistle"), the investigative journalism website my wife, Dragana Matovic, and I founded seven years ago in Belgrade is devoted to whistleblowing and whistleblower protection. The focus on whistleblowing was natural for us, as we were fired from a government-controlled newspaper after blowing the whistle on censorship and conflict of interest. Our effort over the past few years not only led to some high-profile investigations and court cases, but more importantly contributed to Serbia adopting a whistleblower protection law and successfully implementing it. One American expert even describes it as the "gold standard."
In October, Pistaljka hosted "For Every Truth There Is a Source," its first international conference on protecting whistleblowers and journalistic sources.
We knew this type of event was much needed. Whistleblowers from different countries rarely get a chance to talk to each other or to journalists, to share experiences, receive support, and possibly come up with solutions.
The main takeaway from the conference is that we also need more discussions between whistleblowers and journalists. Most whistleblowers from Western Europe at the conference said they distrusted the media and complained that media in their countries are closed to them and their stories.
Another first happened in Belgrade in October: a prime minister gave opening remarks at a whistleblowing conference. In his speech, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic praised Pistaljka and its work with whistleblowers (although, he said, he did not agree with some stories we published). He stayed on to listen to a speech by Serbian whistleblower Borko Josifovski.
Josifovski said that with the help of Pistaljka he's using the new whistleblower law to sue the government of Serbia for inaction in investigating his claims of fraud. His speech was met with loud applause--even from the prime minister.