International cases of whistleblowing (example: Edward Snowden) have received a great deal of media attention. What conclusions can be drawn from this with regard to the relationship between whistleblowers and the media? And what is the practice of whistleblowing in Switzerland? These questions were investigated in a research point with the help of literature analyses, expert interviews and content analyses.
ProjectWhistleblower und Medien in der Schweiz
Involved partiesSchweizerisches Institut für Entrepreneurship (SIFE)
PRME Business Integrity Action Center More about the involved
FundingGottlieb und Hans Vogt-Stiftung
DurationSeptember 2014 – Juni 2015
Whistleblowers are people who inform the media or internal reporting offices about misconduct in companies or state-owned enterprises. Until now, little was known about the practical experiences with whistleblowers in Switzerland, about challenges and risks for the media and whistleblowers, and about the online reporting procedure that is often used in this context. This research gap was addressed and closed in this project.
Whistleblowing is a complex process that poses significant challenges and risks for the two main parties involved (whistleblower and media). Online reporting systems for whistleblowers (examples: Wikileaks, sicher-melden.ch etc.) represent an important technical innovation and are also used by Swiss media organisations to establish contact and exchange documents with whistleblowers.
Little is known about the concrete opportunities and risks associated with such online reporting systems by media and other organisations. More generally, there are currently no studies on the whistleblower situation in Switzerland that examine the phenomenon from an empirical, communication studies perspective. Central research questions here are: What practical experiences and scientific findings on the relationship between whistleblowers and the media are already available internationally? What does the practice of whistleblowing look like in Switzerland? What experience has been gained within the framework of the online reporting systems offered by Swiss media? Which topics and organisations are the subject of whistleblower reports? How are these reports processed journalistically? These research questions were answered using a combination of several research methods (literature analysis, expert interviews, content analysis of reported cases).
Swiss whistleblowers who contact hotlines have great confidence in the media, as the vast majority of them do not wish to remain anonymous. It is more likely that "little people" come to the hotlines with their small stories, which often relate to workplace or neighbourhood disputes, while whistleblowers with "big stories" contact investigative media professionals directly. However, only about a quarter of the reports received are processed for journalistic purposes, and only a very small proportion lead to publications.
The researchers make recommendations at the end of their report: Journalists should receive competent legal advice. Technical solutions should be developed that enable tap-proof, encrypted digital communication between whistleblowers and media people. Whistleblowing should become a topic of journalistic training. Companies and public authorities should increasingly set up internal whistleblowing units so that grievances can be dealt with within the organisation. The legal protection of whistleblowers in Switzerland should be improved. In addition, an independent counselling centre for whistleblowers should be established.
- Dahinden, U., Francolino, V., & Hauser, C. (2018). Whistleblowing-Meldestellen bei Schweizer Medienhäusern. Compliance-Berater, 5(12), 449–451.
- Dahinden, U., Francolino, V., Hauser, C., & Nieffer, R. (2016). Whistleblower und Medien in der Schweiz: Situationsanalyse und Empfehlungen für die Zukunft. Chur: FH Graubünden Verlag.
Knowledge and User Research
Internationalisation and Supply Chain
The project has been implemented by the Swiss Institute for Information Science (SII), in cooperation with the Swiss Institute for Entrepeneurship (SIFE) on behalf of the Gottlieb und Hans Vogt-Stiftung.