The winners of the 2019 Blueprint for Free Speech whistleblowing prizes, which recognise whistleblowers whose bravery and integrity have made a positive impact in the public interest, have been awarded at a ceremony at London’s Frontline Club.
Dr Nick Martin, is awarded the Blueprint International Whistleblowing Prize for his role in exposing grossly inadequate conditions and lack of medical care for refugees incarcerated by the Australian government on the island of Nauru.
A GP trained in the UK who worked around the world with the Royal Navy, Dr Martin was the Senior Medical officer on the island. A shroud of secrecy surrounded the remote detention centre, journalists were totally excluded from it and staff were threatened with criminal prosecution for revealing any details concerning its operation or the plight of the refugees within it. The centre also incarcerated numerous children, many of whom became catatonic, and repeatedly attempted suicide. Self-harm was endemic.
In 2017 he publicly revealed the dire conditions of numerous refugees on Nauru and publicly condemned the government for refusing to evacuate individuals with life-threatening conditions for proper treatment in Australia. While serving on Nauru between November 2016 and August 2017, he alerted the media that extended delays in transporting patients off Nauru for treatment would cost lives. Thanks to disclosures like Martin’s, the Australian government came under sustained public pressure about the fate of children on Nauru in late 2017. Now only about 10 refugee children remain on the island in the camps.
The authority of Nick Martin’s revelations confirmed what had long been rumoured about conditions on the island and the psychiatric and physical decline of its inhabitants. His statements galvanised a movement in Australia to close the Nauru detention centre and formed the basis for a number of successful legal actions to evacuate sick children from it.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is also recognised for its work in aid of asylum seekers on Nauru, with a special recognition commendation. The organisation collated dozens of medical records which showed that medical recommendations for patients at the centre continue to be ignored.
Four other individuals receive special recognition for their personal and professional sacrifices in order to expose and challenge injustice in its many forms.
The recipients of these awards are:
• Larysa Holnyk, a Ukrainian judge who suffered an attack after publishing a video showing an unsuccessful bribery attempt from the Mayor of Poltova and his then deputy.
• Maria Efimova, the whistleblower who provided information to Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia about suspicions of financial corruption and illegalities in Pilatus Bank, a disclosure that constituted an offshoot of the Panama Papers scandal. Caruana Galizia was later assassinated in a car bombing in Malta after reporting the information.
• Reality Winner, the US national security whistleblower who received the longest ever sentence handed out to a civilian for whistleblowing in US history after disclosing an NSA report on Russian attempts to interfere with US elections.
• The anonymous Barclays whistleblowers, whose mistreatment was the cause of the £642,340 fine issued against Barclays chief executive Jes Staley by the Financial Conduct Authority, and US$15M fine against Barclays by New York authorities in December. Staley used Barclays’ internal security unit to attempt to unmask the author of a confidential disclosure about the suitability of a recruitment decision. The subject of the complaint was a personal friend of Staley’s, whom he had been involved in hiring.
This year’s winners were chosen by the panel of three judges, chaired by journalist and lawyer Mark Davis, businesswoman and award winning former investigative television journalist Lady Hollick OBE, and Dr Suelette Dreyfus, award-winning writer and academic.
More information is available on the Blueprint Whistleblowing Prizes website.