We'll keep quiet — we'll keep safe| Asia

      Table of contents:
What does Freedom House say?
Preventing Corruption
Something positive

     It is the right time to open up the Asian part of the world and its approach to whistleblowing — we've picked Russia and Kazakhstan for this task. Usually, we discuss peculiarities of whistleblower laws and their limitation (if such laws exist), but there are factors which precede the initiatives. Something about the freedom of speech?


 

What does Freedom House say?

      If you have a look at the world's map of freedom (here), the Asian part is mostly blue, which means countries are not free - only India and Mongolia stand out. Both Russia and Kazakhstan have a low score in political rights and civil liberties: it has become a hurdle for the trust in the effectiveness of hotlines and confidentiality of the informant's identity. 

      The issues of freedom of speech and specific whistleblower law are closely connected not only by acceptance of the new law by people but also its approval by the government. Even though fair elections and freedom of speech don't guarantee the implementation of the new law (remember the latest Polish example of opposition to whistleblower directive), it prepares a supportive environment to do so. Russia and Kazakhstan use partial anti-corruption legislation so far with no perspective for future amendments.


 

Preventing corruption

      It's not a secret that obvious economic benefit significantly accelerates the implementation of any legislation. Not very successfully, according to Transparency International research, but with a certain regularity, Russia and Kazakhstan introduce anti-corruption reforms. It is supposed to lead to the revision of witness protection legislation which now is not sufficient. 

      In Russia, corruption is regulated by 'Russian Federal Law on Combating Corruption' established in 2008 while in Kazakhstan it is 'On Fighting Corruption', 2015. Financial sphere is the only one with an extended range of rights: whistleblowers are offered protection, remuneration and even confidentiality. In case of a different report (which is not a subject to anti-corruption legislation), the reference can be made only to Labor Code. 

    When there is no ad hoc law on whistleblowing,  other legislations don't have a significant power in protecting the informant. In Russia and Kazakhstan a legislation similar to European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) doesn't apply to whistleblowers' reports generally; therefore, personal information, the identity of the informant may be disclosed. Each whistleblower case should be individually considered since there is no general provision. It is the burden of the employee to prove unfair dismissal in the court (proving displacement or harassment is even harder).

      Note: Since 2006, the law "On personal data" has entered into force in Russia. Being as strict as GDPR, it is worth considering in case the company has internal channels for whistleblowers or cooperates with third parties. All personal data (under 'personal' we understand any information which can identify the person) should be primarily gathered and processed in the territory of the Russian Federation. Consequently, the primary servers should be located in Russia and have permission from the user to process his data. If violated the law supposes penalties and lockout of all services (as it happened with LinkedIn in 2016).

   As a result, issues of public interest are prioritized for investigation comparing with personal. At the moment there are no prominent whistleblower cases resolved in favour of the informant (but existing are connected with violation of human rights).


 

Something positive

      Russia and Kazakhstan have no obligatory implementation of hotlines and corresponding rules for them in the nearest future (in contrast with EU countries). However, the process has started: in 2015 and 2017, there were attempts to promote a draft bill on the protection of individuals to the Russian government. The process is ongoing but it clearly focuses on the governmental sector.

       As for already implemented initiatives, up to 150,000$ can be paid to the whistleblower who reports about serious crime according to the order "On adopting the Provision on assigning and paying rewards by the police for help in solving crimes and apprehending persons who commit them " dated by August 2018. Even though its scope is limited, the law shows a possible example of a future general approach with respect for confidentiality and also rewards.

     It is not trendy to have an effective compliance system (yet), but a number of international companies in Russia and Kazakhstan set an excellent example of internal policy. Whistleblower hotlines are not something unusual and represent high standards of doing business, so there is still a chance for them to turn into the majority.

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