1. External reporting channels shall be considered independent and autonomous, if they meet all of the following criteria:
(a) they are designed, established and operated in a manner that ensures the completeness, integrity and confidentiality of the information and prevents access thereto by non-authorised staff members of the competent authority;
(b) they enable the durable storage of information in accordance with Article 18 to allow further investigations to be carried out.
2. The external reporting channels shall enable reporting in writing and orally. Oral reporting shall be possible by telephone or through other voice messaging systems and, upon request by the reporting person, by means of a physical meeting within a reasonable timeframe.
3. Competent authorities shall ensure that, where a report is received through channels other than the reporting channels referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 or by staff members other than those responsible for handling reports, the staff members who receive it are prohibited from disclosing any information that might identify the reporting person or the person concerned, and that they promptly forward the report without modification to the staff members responsible for handling reports.
4. Member States shall ensure that competent authorities designate staff members responsible for handling reports, and in particular for:
(a) providing any interested person with information on the procedures for reporting;
(b) receiving and following up on reports;
(c) maintaining contact with the reporting person for the purpose of providing feedback and requesting further information where necessary.
The staff members referred to in paragraph 4 shall receive specific training for the purposes of handling reports.