Photo: James O'Gorman

The role played by journalists in anti-corruption is extremely valuable. What can donors do to maximise the media’s role?

Why bother with the media?

Why use scarce anti-corruption resources on boosting the media? Because the media can be a force against corruption both tangibly and intangibly. E.g. tangible: the scrapping of a policy that fosters opportunities for corruption or the sacking of a corrupt official. Intangible: enlivened public debate and a sense of accountability created by independent media. There is thus a positive relationship between a free and independent media and decreased corruption.

1. Support centres for investigative journalism

Centres for non-profit journalism offer an attractive combination for donors: they provide on-the-job training, offer legal support and produce news stories that can be covered by other newspapers. For commercial media houses, it can be easier to cover in-depth analysis provided by non-profit centres than to carry it out themselves, as independent journalists are less likely to face political pressure. Analyses provided by such journalists can thus have a snowballing effect.  

2. Ensure financial independence

Political and financial pressures can make it difficult to criticise power, and to resist money rewards. Given the lack of financial resources available for local media in most countries with acute corruption problems, these entities have a special need of monetary support. Too often, especially in developing countries, media are furthermore state-owned or state-influenced.

Establishing a central media fund can reduce reliance on government transfers to favoured media outlets. International media can provide solidarity and coverage for local media that are harassed for reporting on corruption.

3. Tackle media corruption

Developing countries often provide fertile grounds for corruption in the media itself. Raising journalists’ awareness of the ethical challenges they face through ethics training and the adoption of a robust code of ethics can contribute to increased awareness. Media accountability systems and complaints mechanisms can enhance transparency and accountability of media operations. These systems and mechanisms can be run by press councils – bringing together the major actors of social communication: owners, reporters, and the public. Internal system of review and correction can operate in each media house, or civil society organisations can systematically monitor media activity.

Funding research on corruption in media that could produce good practices is pivotal, as there is little research on the topic. Support can be funneled through civil society, as there is a need to lobby media owners to recognise editorial independence.  


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Further resources

Mapping evidence gaps in anti-corruption

The media’s role in fighting corruption: Media effects on governmental accountability