Whistleblowing or reporting wrongdoing

What is whistleblowing?

The English term 'whistleblowing' is clearly derived from whistling, which draws a parallel with, for example, sports judges or police officers, both of whom draw attention to an error or danger when whistling. From the middle of the 20th century, this is how people who report about wrongdoing ​​are called. Thus, the notion of reporting has a rather positive meaning in English culture.

To date, there are no great matches that have been found in Estonian other than the neutral term "vihjeandja" ("clue giver") or "vilepuhuja", the latter being a direct translation from English. The Estonian Language Institute has also suggested the alternative use of the words "informant" and "hinter".

In the Estonian cultural space, informants were treated negatively for a long time due to their historical background. To date, comparisons are made with "snitches", "complainants" and other Soviet-era informants who are seen as traitors of the public interest. Over a long period of time, with the pressure of the state and employers who were considered oppressors, the culture of silence and not opposing others was cultivated. Whistleblowers were seen instead as "traitors" of their own kin, and this attitude was supported by the criminals themselves.

Due to systematic change of attitudes, the above-mentioned stereotypes have started to change. The wider involvement of people in the management of organizations and extensive communication work covering both ethical and economic aspects of management have played a role in this. Reporting is becoming an in-house early warning system that helps mitigate risks and improve the organizational culture.

Why is reporting important?

A whistleblower helps to stop wrongdoing that can harm a person in a weaker position or even the whole community.

For example, children are often the vulnerable side. In order to stop domestic violence or bullying, the victim will probably need the help of bystanders. However, a third person can only help if they are aware of the problem and who needs help. This requires someone to stand up and report what they have witnessed or experiences.

Additionally, reporting misconduct is one of the most effective ways to detect corruption. According to a 2018 study by the ACFE (Global Society of Fraud Investigators), tips are by far the most common way to detect fraud, accounting for 40 percent of all cases. Tips are followed by an internal audit with only 15 percent.

Whistleblowing is hampered by misconceptions within the organization, poor reporting mechanisms and weak leadership, such as the inability to protect one's employee from harassment, discrimination or retaliation. In order to prevent corruption and misconduct in a company, management has to ensure that there is zero tolerance for wrongdoing in all areas of the organization, offer employees support in following their values, and protect them from retaliation. The purpose of whistleblower protection is to encourage whistleblowers to report corruption or other misconduct.

Whether an organization is small or large, promoting an open organizational culture brings many benefits.
By supporting whistleblowing, an organization improves its ability to:

  • prevent misconduct;
  • detect the problem in early stages;
  • ensure that critical information reaches the person who can solve the problem;
  • prove shareholders, authorities and the public that the organization is able to take responsibility and is well managed;
  • reduce anonymous and malicious leaks to the press;
  • reduce costs and compensation cause by accidents, litigation and inspections of authorities;
  • be a serious and reliable partner;
  • keep and improve its reputation.

Keep in mind that whistleblowing mechanism is only a part of the prevention of corruption in an organization.



Helpline: gives the employee advice on how to report misconduct and which cases to report via the hotline.
Hotline or Speak Up Line: a channel to report misconduct.
Whistleblower: a person who reports wrongdoing.
Whistleblower protection: safeguards to prevent misconduct in the event of retaliation and ensuring the confidentiality of the whistleblower
Policy of reporting wrongdoing or whistleblowing policy / guidelines: these documents outline what is considered wrongdoing by the organization, how the organization will react to non-compliance with its values, what are the ways and channels to report wrongdoing in the organization, how to correctly handle and investigate the report, and how the organization protects the reporting person.
Misconduct or wrongdoing: behavior that is contrary to the values ​​and policies of the organization or the legislative framework in the country
Retaliation: discrimination of the whistleblower in any given form as a result of making the disclosure.


See more in our "Whistleblowing Mechanism in an Enterprise. Toolkit" (2019), published by TI Estonia in Estonian.


Videos on this page have been produced as part of the social media campaign for youth "Help Make a Difference!" under the project "Enhancing reporting of wrongdoing and the protection of whistleblowers in Estonia", financed by the Active Citizens Fund.

If you're a person who has experienced or witnessed corruption, see here.

If you're a child or young person who has experienced or witnessed wrongdoing, let someone know - how else can they help? If you do not know where to start, call a helpline for children (Lasteabi) - 116 111.

If you want to get advice from the police, ask web constables:

Andero Sepp
Facebook: Veebikonstaabel Andero
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Skype: andero.sepp@politsei.ee
E-mail: andero.sepp@politsei.ee

Jana Frolova
Facebook: Veebikonstaabel Jana Frolova - https://www.facebook.com/veebikonstaabel.3?fref=ts
VK: yana frolova veebikonstaabel
Odnoklassniki: Яна Фролова
E-mail: jana.frolova@politsei.ee