Reporting on corruption, at a price

To illustrate how public sector corruption impacts on different issues, such as development and freedom of expression, we asked our friends at other organisations to let us know how public sector corruption affecting the areas that they work on. We hope you’ll join in the discussions on the multi-dimensional effects of corruption and, most importantly, how we can work together to overcome this global disease. The following post has been written by Gypsy Guillén Kaiser, Advocacy and Communications Director at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organisation that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.

Committee to Protect JournalistsIt happened one day, after many direct warnings. Neighbours found Mikhail Beketov, editor of Russia’s Khimkinskaya Pravda, in a pool of blood. He was left to die in the cold after a savage beating that ended with broken legs, smashed hands and a cracked skull. Although with severe brain damage and unable to speak, he survived and is recovering.

When the attack happened, Beketov had been reporting on the proposed construction of a highway in Khimki, outside Moscow, which would have destroyed a local forest. His stories pointed to dubious land deals and implicated local officials. Two years later, a probe into the attack has been suspended, with no suspects in custody. A defamation case against Beketov, brought by Khimki’s mayor, is currently proceeding.

The brutality employed to silence Beketov is extreme but attacks against journalists who expose corruption or allegations of this crime, are a common reality in many corners of the world. Research by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) shows that from 837 journalists killed since 1992, 21 per cent were reporting on corruption.

But corruption limits press freedom in other ways too. Fears of reprisals or the financial disadvantages such reporting may bring induce self-censorship. Some governments abuse their authority to award lucrative official advertising contracts to reward or punish media outlets.

Special interest or criminal groups engaged in corruption try to control the press –sometimes by force- as is currently the case in Mexico. And in a rather vicious circle, bribes and influence-peddling play a role in the enduring impunity that leaves attacks on journalists like Beketov, largely, unresolved. In the last 18 years, 27 per cent of the 538 cases of unresolved journalist murders, involved reporting on corruption.

This complex scenario of control and intimidation is documented, for example, in our recent report on the wave of violence wracking Mexican media. More than 30 journalists have been murdered or gone missing since December 2006.

In the 80’s and 90’s, Mexico’s drug cartels invested in buying the cooperation of corrupt police, public officials, soldiers, and customs agents,  the report states. If a journalist exposed and disrupted this network, it reduced bountiful illicit profits. Assessing the current situation, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon writes: ”Traffickers rely on media outlets they control to discredit their rivals, expose corrupt officials working for competing cartels, defend themselves against government allegations, and influence public opinion.“

Yet in the midst of all this, there is reason for hope. Recent CPJ meetings with Russian officials and Mexico’s President have resulted in the reopening of investigations and a pledge to push for legislation that would make the killing of journalists a federal crime. In August, CPJ representatives also met with officials in the Philippines who signalled they will continue their robust investigations into the Maguindanao massacre, where 32 of the 57 people ambushed by a militia were journalists.

It is also heartening to see journalists like Pakistan’s Umar Cheema, who was recently abducted, tortured and released, continue to speak out about his suspicions that the Pakistani secret service simply resented his reporting on the army and the government, including possible corruption. But this is just one example. Journalists the world over will continue to use and test access to information laws, confirm public claims and probe programs, decisions and deals that affect the public. In that process, they will undoubtedly continue to uncover corruption, and to pay a price for it.

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13 Responses to Reporting on corruption, at a price

  1. Cath 27 October 2010 at 12:47 am #

    Surprised Canada is #6. Ontario Goverment sells the children of the poor to the rich in order to appropriate goverment funding to provate coorporations. Ontario Goverment misuses the funding from EI for programs like OSEB and prevents people with disabilities to access the programs. Human Rights law is thrown under the carpet!

  2. Transparence 27 October 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    WHAT ABOUT PALESTINE ???? WHERE IS IT IN THE MAP????

  3. Marissa L. Campbell, Esq. 27 October 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    My understanding is slightly different. Too often these corrupt third world nations are supplied weapons by western nations and encouraged to engage in infighting. Why? I believe . . . ethnic cleansing by any means necessary, while keeping one’s own hands clean.

    To thine ownself be true for thou cannot be true to another man. Palonious to Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

  4. Dr. Joseph ndongwa 11 November 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    I read with hope your efforts to make the so called African leaders to account for their fortunes hidden in foreign lands while their citizens suffer from the corrupt system the “leaders” have created.
    I am looking for the day that all the African leaders and their relatives and cronies will have their wealth systematicaly scrutinized. One of such a leader who needs to be investigated is Paul Biya of Cameroon.

  5. Akpan Ita Williams 9 December 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    TI, Personally, the only way to totally check corruption in Africa especially in my country Nigeria is by removing completely The Immunity Clause from our constitution. With this all the leaders will be accountable.Currently i had a Feature story on “IMMUNITY CLAUSE, OUR PROBLEM” I want to publish it in the TI magazine. Thank you for your good works.Mr Ita Williams,a Reporter National Integrity News..Nigeria.

  6. Akpan Ita Williams 9 December 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    TI, Personally, the only way to totally check corruption in Africa especially in my country Nigeria is by removing completely The Immunity Clause from our constitution. With this all the leaders will be accountable.Currently i had a Feature story on “IMMUNITY CLAUSE, OUR PROBLEM” I want to publish it in the TI magazine. Thank you for your good works.Mr Ita Williams,a Reporter National Integrity News..Nigeria.+2348060793080

  7. Anni 7 January 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    why dont you publish this? This is my 3rd attempt Do you realy think you are doing favour to all the victims of NSW judicial corruption?

  8. Josh 1 February 2011 at 8:37 am #

    I was just recently held by immigration in indonesia for overstaying my visa by two days. I was told to pay $38000 or I’ll be in jail for a year and deported, never able to return. Needless to say I didn’t pay as two days went by I was recieving threatening calls and my car was smashed to bits. I’m having difficulty leaving the country now that they have my passport and the Island Im on (Batam) doesn’t have an American Embassy. Corrupt isn’t a good enough word for these guys I’m dealing with.

  9. Mabuballah 1 April 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    If one considers only the above rather unsophisticated means of making honest reporters “pay the price”, so to speak, (as detailed in the above-mentioned examples), then one has really missed the point. The Western powers enjoy rather benign assessments as listed on your map; but how many people have read Peter Brock’s tome, “Media Cleansing: Dirty Reporting”, and how many have any notion that the murderous rampage of “Operation Storm” of 1995, which featured the largest and most brutal occasion of “ethnic cleansing” was armed and directed by Bill Clinton’s bully boys in MPRI and the CIA? How many have any notion of the corrupt and reckless “great game” now being played out in the Caucasus by the West and its stooge, Saakashvili?

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    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Transparency Int'l, YeYe. YeYe said: @KPK_RI RT @anticorruption| @pressfreedom blog: 837 journalists killed since 1992,21% reporting on corruption #cpi10 http://bit.ly/9XSYmo [...]

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  3. Christian Unity and the Russian Orthodox Church | @ActonInstitute PowerBlog - 6 May 2011

    [...] and grave social ills including alcoholism, the disintegration of the family, what amounts to an open season on journalists, and an immense and growing corruption problem at all levels of government and society. Building [...]

  4. Christian Unity and the Russian Orthodox Church - Christian Forums - 10 May 2011

    [...] and grave social ills including alcoholism, the disintegration of the family, what amounts to an open season on journalists, and an immense and growing corruption problem at all levels of government and society. Building [...]