Whistleblowers across the European Union have won greater protection under a new landmark legislation aimed at encouraging reports of wrongdoing. The new law, approved by the European Parliament on Tuesday, shields whistleblowers from retaliation. It also creates “safe channels” to allow them to report breaches of EU law.

The rules have previously been in the hands of member states, resulting in a range of vastly different approaches. If no appropriate action is taken or in cases where reporting to the authorities would not work, whistleblowers are permitted to make a public disclosure – including by speaking to the media.

EU legislators passed the law less than a week after the controversial arrest of Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy in London. MEPs were divided over Assange’s arrest with some describing him as champion for press freedom and others calling him an ‘ambiguous character who played a dirty game.’

One former Nobel Peace prize winner Mairead Maguire defended Julian Assange’s as she collected a whistleblower’s award on his behalf at the European Parliament.

Speaking in Strasbourg, Maguire said: ‘Julian Assange has done a great service to the whole of humanity. He told us exactly what was happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, where civilians are being killed through war. And we have the right to know that. So, he revealed to us the horrors of war carried out in our name by the US, NATO forces. And because he told the truth to the world he is being punished and silenced.’

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