Practical Guide: Secrets and Whistleblowers

The guide "Secrets and whistleblowers" is intended for anyone wishing to raise the whistle by disclosing or reporting information. With this guide, you will be able to identify if the information you wish to reveal is protected by a secret, and know how to act while being legally protected.

The House of Whistleblowers, created on October 22, 2018, is a civil society organization, set up at the initiative of 17 organizations committing to work jointly to protect whistleblowers by supporting them in daily and to advocate for improved protection.


This guide is structured around 4 types of secrets:

- Confidential medical information : All professionals involved in the health system (doctor, nurse, etc.) must respect medical secrecy (professional secrecy). Indeed, a patient has the right to respect for his private life and to respect for the secrecy of information concerning him. However, there are situations where medical confidentiality can be shared or lifted. In the event of a breach of professional secrecy, you can file a complaint and request compensation for the damage suffered.

- Professional secrecy of lawyers: Lawyers and magistrates are bound by professional secrecy as filed under oath. According to article 66-5 of law n ° 71-1130 of December 31, 1971, secrecy covering all the confidences that they may receive because of their condition or their profession (Civ. 1re, June 7, 1983) , but also the correspondence exchanged between the lawyer and his client (Civ. 2e, 7 Nov. 1994)

- Secret of National Defense: The protection of the secrecy of National Defense aims to ensure the protection of the fundamental interests of the Nation in the fields of Defense, internal security and the protection of financial, economic or industrial activities, the protection of heritage science and culture of France.

- Business secret: The French law of July 30, 2018 on the protection of business, covers the protection of information which "has a commercial value, actual or potential, because of its secret nature" and "is the subject of its holder reasonable protective measures, having regard to the circumstances, to maintain their secrecy. "


However, article 40 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that any constituted authority, any public officer or civil servant, who in the exercise of his functions acquires knowledge of a crime or an offense, to inform the District Attorney.

A similar obligation is imposed on persons who "carry out, control or advise operations involving the movement of capital", who are "required to declare to the Public Prosecutor transactions involving sums which they know come from drug trafficking or of the activity of criminal organizations ”(article L. 561-1 of the Monetary and Financial Code).

Professional secrecy, and in particular banking secrecy, cannot be opposed to the OPJ or to the Public Prosecutor during the investigation (Crim. 27 Apr. 1994). It can nevertheless be opposed to the civil judge (Com. 13 June 1995).

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Virginie Gastine Menou

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