Thursday, December 29, 2016

Three ways to fight corruption in the media

When consuming news media: buyers beware. Although a free and independent media is a key ingredient of democracy, this has never meant the media is unbiased. Most people know where on the political spectrum their chosen information source sits. In the UK, the Daily Mirror is a Labour paper; the Telegraph is Conservative. In the U.S. Fox News, despite its ‘free and fair’ tagline is known to be home to the (reactionary) right.
It’s only when one particular bias stifles free speech or blurs the line between real news and sensationalism that the most important function of the fourth estate, holding those in power to account, is put in jeopardy. There are two scenarios where this can limit the media’s watchdog role: when independent press is censored, as in a dictatorship, or powerful commercial interests muzzle criticism.
The radical transformation of the media landscape in the digital era has brought about a scenario where the latter scenario is beginning to undermine the purpose, if not the power, of a free press. With a drastic drop in sales of print media, and an increasingly saturated market in which traditional journalism competes with less formal or professional reporting, media outlets are increasingly looking to alternative ways to maintain market share and attention spans through the use of sensationalism and frantic news hunting.

Here we consider three ways in which journalism is at risk from corruption and what can be done to tackle its destructive influence on our news media:

1) Media Ownership 

The ownership of media outlets – whether state-run, privately owned, or public service broadcasters – is a crucial factor for the independence and integrity of the media.
Where media companies are formally owned by the state, the government may exercise a strong influence, censoring stories, stifling investigations into high profile cases and generally compromising the neutrality of reporting.
Privately owned media companies carry equally significant challenges as they can become beholden to certain public figures, individuals or corporate interests, who use them to promote a certain image of themselves, their opponents, or a certain issue or product. Concentrated ownership is most worrisome; where one or few individuals or firms own the majority of media companies in a country, heavily undermining neutrality and pluralism.
Governments must create and enforce legal frameworks to promote transparency of ownership of the media through active disclosure of ownership structures to independent media regulators or authorities. This information should be available to the public in a clear and accessible way.
Some innovative initiatives are being piloted by journalists themselves, such as by Reporters without Borders in Colombia, whose database enables the public to examine the concentration of media ownership and related conflicts of interest by publishing and analysing data about media companies' holdings and beneficial owners.
Austria is considered as an example of good practice in regulating media ownership. A 2011 Austrian media law permits anyone to look up the owners of print, broadcast and online media. Media companies are obliged to disclose the information directly to the public and report details of their owners, including information on all shareholdings, beneficial owners and those with indirect interests and control.

2) Funding and non-transparent advertising 

Financing models are closely connected to the issue of ownership. In both instances of public and private ownership, the media sector’s growing reliance on non-traditional sources of revenue (i.e. not physical sales) makes it vulnerable to undue influence through new funding sources. Whether state subsidies or private contribution, media companies’ reliance on funding streams tied to special interests is a real challenge to the integrity of their journalism.
The growing recourse of media outlets to non-transparent advertising is an area of great concern. Searching for alternative revenue streams, many media companies enter into agreements with public relations agencies, government bodies or advertising companies to publish advertisements or promotional material disguised as editorials or other pieces of news.
In Macedonia and Serbia, the government is one of the largest advertisers, using taxpayer money in ways that can undermine media plurality by funding media outlets with a pro-government slant.
To combat this, governments and relevant authorities such as media oversight bodies and tax offices must oblige media companies to disclose their financial information, especially regarding their sources of income.

3) Integrity of journalists' work

Besides nontransparent advertising, corruption in the media sector can also be carried out by journalists, editors, and other actors. Lack of professional standards due to limited resources, low quality control, low salaries and technical capacity are likely to influence the ethical framework of media institutions.
As the main stakeholders in this process, media companies have a central role in promoting media integrity. They should be the main drivers of promoting integrity and transparency.
There are a variety of ways they can do this.  Media outlets can provide journalists and staff with adequate ethics and integrity training, and establish internal integrity systems with clear codes of conduct with policies regulating conflicts of interest, gifts and due diligence for advertising decisions. Sanctions for non-compliance and whistle-blower protection policies can also help promote good practice.
Ultimately, the sustainability of journalism, especially investigative journalism, rests upon a reputation for integrity, ethical conduct and credibility.

 Source: Mariana Sosa Cordero, Transparency International Blog 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


When Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti on 5 October, the fields where crops were grown were washed away; houses were flattened like cardboard boxes and hundreds of people were killed. The number of dead is now close to 1000 and cholera is once again a fatal danger on our shores. UNICEF says more than 600,000 children are threatened with food shortages.

Aid is beginning to come in, often provoking violence among those who have felt abandoned after the second catastrophic natural disaster to hit Haiti in six years. The 2010 earthquake flattened the cities in the Port-au-Prince and several other towns and villages in the West and South Departments; the 2016 hurricane took care of the south west and the Grand-Anse. There is little left intact in Haiti. It’s hard to bounce back once, let alone twice.
No one believes that rebuilding will be swift or smooth.  Corruption always remains a risk in a country that consistently scores less than 20 out of 100, indicating rampant corruption and sits in the bottom 10 of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. In 2014, the government introduced anti-corruption legislation but little has been done to implement it and at this critical time Haiti still lacks access to information legislations, strong whistleblower protection legislation and a law on financing of political parties.
The much delayed presidential and legislative elections that were supposed to happen on the week the hurricane hit are now slated for 20 November. In spite of the many roads and polling stations that are destroyed, we remain cautiously optimistic that the elections will take place and thereby put an end to power vacuum at the top. Though, in the difficult, post-hurricane situation, elections may hold little interest for the people of Haiti, whose priority is survival.
The Corruption Risk Map guide that was published after the earthquake in 2010
In our small way La Fondation Héritage pour Haïti (LFHH), Transparency International’s chapter in Haiti is trying to help by helping people prepare.
After the devastating earthquake of 12 January 2012, we developed a Haiti Corruption Risk Map and a Methodology for combating corruption in the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Billions of dollars were pledged to help us rebuild from that catastrophe. This month the Risk Map and Methodology will be republished with the help of Christian Aid, within the framework of a post-hurricane project.
All the problems that existed in 2010 are still there. For example, the threat of embezzlement of goods and funds. We are also worried that the surge in sexual harassment for supplies and jobs that marred the aid efforts in 2010 will happen again.
There is a sense of lawlessness that needs to be stopped. A big cache of guns was seized in August.  Perhaps they were imported just in time to disrupt the elections?  The rule of law is constantly under threat.
What we need now is strong leadership to give people a sense of hope amongst the debris. Without a government that is hard. So while we call on prospective leaders to set the moral tone during these difficult times, we will also work with grass roots civil society organisations by providing them with the tools and training to enable them to monitor the aid and reconstruction process. The survival of too many men, women and children depend on access to humanitarian aid.  Corruption cannot be allowed to infiltrate the process!
Haiti has had far too large a share of natural and man-made disasters that have opened the door to corruption and the corrupt and hurt the people, particularly the most vulnerable. As part of the global anti-corruption movement, LFHH is doing its best to remind the people that saying no to corruption and abiding by the rule of law not only helps more people survive catastrophes because aid is not siphoned off, but it strengthens the core of a country. That is the only hope for a better future.

 Source:  Marilyn Allien , Transparency International Blog

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The arrest of businessman Beny Steinmetz over alleged bribery to obtain rights for one of the world’s most important iron ore concessions is an urgent reminder of why the UK’s tax havens need to open up. Today MPs have tabled an amendment to the government’s Criminal Finances Bill that would bring to an end the corporate secrecy that allows these jurisdictions to be used for corruption and money laundering.

The arrest is reported to be in relation to accusations of bribery relating to the granting of lucrative mining rights to Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR) over the Simandou mountain range in Guinea, West Africa, in 2008. Beny Steinmetz’s company BSGR confirmed his detention, saying the bribery allegations were baseless.

In 2010 BSGR sold 51% of those rights to the world’s largest iron ore company, Vale, for $2.5 billion—equivalent to twice Guinea’s entire budget at the time. BSGR paid nothing for the rights, although it says it invested $160 million in the project.

A report by Global Witness in 2013 revealed how anonymous companies in the British Virgin Islands, a UK tax haven, founded by a director of Beny Steinmetz Group Resources signed corrupt deals with the wife of the President of Guinea. British Virgin Islands red phone box

These anonymous companies were central to this arrangement, allowing both BSGR and the wife of the President, to hide their involvement in this alleged corruption. This was possible because the British Virgin Islands, a UK-linked tax haven that the UK government is ultimately responsible for, allows companies incorporated there to hide their real owners.
But an amendment to the government’s Criminal Finances Bill, being proposed today by Margaret Hodge and 80 other MPs from the Conservatives, SNP, Greens, Lib Dems and other parties, would bring that secrecy to an end. This amendment would set a deadline for bringing all the UK’s Overseas Territories, of which the British Virgin Islands is one, into line with UK domestic company laws that require companies to publicly disclose their real, true owners.
"Yesterday’s arrest over a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal in one of the world’s poorest countries, facilitated through a UK tax haven, should remind all MPs and the UK government why this change is so urgently needed."
If this amendment is supported by MPs and by the government it would ensure that UK tax havens like the British Virgin Islands would no longer be able to be used to fuel corruption and bribery around the world. Yesterday’s arrest over a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal in one of the world’s poorest countries, facilitated through a UK tax haven, should remind all MPs and the UK government why this change is so urgently needed.

Source: Murray Worthy, Global Witness

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Corruption is a universal phenomenon, independent of social system, age, position or class. It is also a very old phenomenon. Already in writings dating from Babylonia, 2250 BC, one finds traces of corruption. But corruption probably never was a hot issue as it is today. The global media has undoubtedly contributed to this. But many developments in the last thirty years have contributed also. These include the major corruption scandals, the end of the cold war and some globalization trends.

Who are we?

Corruption Watchers is a group of brave human rights and environmental activists who put our world first. It is a well-known fact that most of planet Earth sicknesses and abuses are driven by corruption in the global political and economic systems as well as mal use of natural resources, our goal is to combat this twisted status quo and to campaign for change. We will carry investigations and expose these wrongful doings. We are independent, not-for-profit and we always see global justice before our eyes.   

Our Vision

We want to create a better place for our children to grow in, a world where corruption is properly  challenged, with public interest guiding our path.

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