Staunton, July 24 – The number of Russians who snitch on their neighbors or co-workers other has reached unprecedented levels (glavred.info/mir/v-rossii-ogromnoe-chislo-stukachey-specsluzhb-advokat-447842.html and obozrevatel.com/abroad/39586-oni-povsyudu-fejgin-rasskazal-grustnuyu-pravdu-o-rossii.htm).
But the utility of such reports and the prospect that the authorities will get more of them on issues they care about is severely limited by the inability of the powers that be to protect or reward informants, according to an article in today’s Yezhednevny zhurnal comparing Russian and international experience with whistleblowers (ej.ru/?a=note&id=31358).
“Without the participation of a large swath of the population, the struggle against corruption” and many other social ills will be “impossible,” the paper says, given that the police and the siloviki can’t be everywhere at once. But getting Russians to be whistleblowers is going to be hard unless the law and public attitudes both change.
At present, the paper continues, “even those Russians who say they are ready to report cases of corruption and abuse of power which they say most of the time remain silent. And that is hardly surprising: the collective memory about the horrors of Stalinism, widespread ‘criminal’ ethics, and the deeply rooted distrust in society” all contribute to that outcome.
“To convert a Russian into an important will be possible only if he is motivated and at the same time protected.” More than 30 countries now have whistleblower statutes on the books, but Russia doesn’t have even one piece of such legislation. Indeed, Yezhednevny zhurnal says, “in Russia so far there hasn’t been even a serious discussion” of this need.
But there are some efforts being made in the public sphere. Aleksey Shlyapuzhnikov of the Vladimir oblast “Swan” public organization describes what his group has done and why its work needs to be replicated elsewhere. As he puts it, the current situation in which Russia doesn’t have a whistleblower law is “absolutely unsatisfactory.”
Russian law does protect witnesses, that is, those who provide testimony in open court. But many who might want to report a crime to the authorities but not be identified fear that the procuracy will give their names to those who are committing the infraction and that they will suffer, the Vladimir activist says. And they have no protection or recourse other than silence.
Shlyapushnikov says that everyone benefits when such a law is put in place, including the authorities who are then in a position to say that the business climate is better or at least less corrupt. He adds that for those like him in the provinces, the only allies are international groups like Transparency International.