ROME — Whistleblower protection groups urged the World Health Organization on Wednesday to launch an independent review into the case of an Italian researcher who reported being pressured to falsify data in a now-spiked WHO report into Italy’s coronavirus response.
The groups and some 30 other public health and anti-corruption organizations sent an open letter to the president of the World Health Assembly. The assembly, WHO’s highest decision-making body, is made up of all WHO member states and is meeting this week.
In the letter, the signatories called for the U.N. agency to commit to reforming its whistleblowing protection policy. They said the Italian researcher, Dr. Francesco Zambon, had suffered retaliatory treatment for having reported the incident within WHO’s internal ethics system.
Zambon resigned in March, saying he had been isolated and marginalized after he complained internally, and then publicly, about the scandal.
Zambon has said he was pressured by a then-assistant director general, Dr. Ranieri Guerra, to falsify data about Italy’s preparedness going into the pandemic in a report he and other researchers were writing to help other countries prepare as COVID-19 swept across the globe last year.