Reporting on Corruption: A Resource Tool for Governments and Journalists

Reporting on CorruptionThe United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has developed a new Resource Tool for Governments and Journalists, entitled Reporting on Corruption. The official launch of the Tool took place during the 5th Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (COSP5), held from 25 to 29 November 2013 in Panama City.

In its eight chapters the Tool covers a wide range of subjects, including the protection of the anonymity of sources, the right of access to information, and self-regulatory measures. It offers information and experiences provided by States parties, and also highlights various international standards, case-law and recommendations from international experts.

The preparation of the Tool included interviews with dozens of investigative journalists, editors, governmental experts, scholars, attorneys and law enforcement officers. Additionally, an Expert Group Meeting was held from 10 to 12 April 2013 in Vienna, which brought together more than 40 experts from over 20 countries across the globe to discuss and provide input to the topic.

The Tool is based on the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and focuses particularly on article 13, paragraph 1 (d) which calls States parties to respect, promote and protect the freedoom to seek, receive, publish and disseminate information concerning corruption. Mirroring the language of international human rights instruments, the article highlights that this freedom may be subject to certain restrictions, but only if these are provided for by law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, for the protection of national security, public order, public health or morals.

Not only in article 13, but throughout its chapters, UNCAC encourages the dissemination of information and open discourse, with the understanding that anti-corruption efforts flourish best with the help of an informed citizenry.

Journalists play a key role in raising awareness of corruption at all levels of society and, in particular, showing how it affects the daily lives of ordinary citizens. Examples of growing transparency are seen in virtually every region of the world and investigative journalists increasingly use state business registries, stock exchange records and other public documents to expose corruption cases which deprive States of much-needed funds.

At the same time, trust in the media has been challenged in recent years, with journalists in many countries accused of blackmail, extortion, telephone hacking, bribery, and more. Such cases have had an impact on the public's perception of the quality and credibility of the media.

Investigations by journalists around the world are important not only for their findings, but for their ability to provoke broad public reaction through highlighting the problems. The Tool outlines major challenges to the promotion of professional, scrupulous, uncompromising and fair reporting on corruption and showecases that a vigorous implementation of UNCAC can greatly contribute towards a legal framework that allows journalists to fulfill their role.

The Tool is available here.

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