Veranstaltungen: Dokumentation


Panel V: Corruption and media

IRRESISTIBLE? A symposium on the phenomenon of CORRUPTION

Saturday, 17 June 2017, 14:00-15:30

PDF-Icon Panel V german

Aleksandrina Elagina (Russiangate, Russia)
Paul Cristian Radu (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Romania)
Natalie Sedletska (Radio Liberty, Ukraine)
Moderator: Andreas Breitenstein (Neue Züricher Zeitung, Switzerland)

Audio-Record: Panel 5: Corruption and media; June 17, 2017 (© 2017 Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung)

Panel V entitled "Corruption and media" looked into the relationship between investigative journalism and corruption. What role does journalism play in fighting and/or preventing corruption? How do journalists work in various countries?

Moderator Andreas Breitenschein opened the panel by suggesting that corruption and the phenomenon of political disenchantment often "go hand in hand". That trend is especially noticeable in Eastern Europe. Hopes in the power of the fourth estate were therefore the main focus of the panel. What opportunities do journalists have?

Natalie Sedletska of Radio Liberty Ukraine spoke about the video format Schemes (click here for more Information). Once a week, the format deals with details of corruption and/or non-transparency. She gave the example of Ukrainian Prime Minister Yanukovych who financed his private villa with public funds. When Schemes was created, it had been unclear whether it could be filled with reports about corruption alone every week. That worry turned out to be unfounded. Journalism based on verifiable facts is an efficient instrument of bringing an influence to bear.

IRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption - Panel VIRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption (© bpb/Dorothea Tuch)

Western banks as money launderers?

Aleksandrina Elagina of the news blog Russiangate spoke about her work as investigative journalist. It was difficult, she said, to report about Russia in a balanced manner, because if the government regards reports as false, the journalists concerned are subject to state reprisals. She also described the difficulties resulting for Russiangate from its illegal status.

Paul Cristian Radu of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in Romania stressed the global level of fighting corruption.

Western banks, in particular, are involved in the process of laundering corruption money (click here for more information). More than $20 billion earned from corruption in the Republic of Moldova was laundered with the help of Western banks. Radu emphasised that this type of “high-level corruption” has to be dealt with.

Asked about know-how, Radu explained that the system of the organized networks is simple. Organized crime uses four instruments in most cases: banks, letter-box companies, certain information centres and certain people protecting the real originators. Once the patterns are known, they are easy to identify.

Following Radu, Sedlestka explained the close link between corruption and the state. It is far easier to fight corruption when the state itself is open and/or offers access to data such as ownership titles. The situation in Ukraine has clearly improved after the Maidan protests. At long last, significantly more information is available, even though this creates an incentive in turn to disguise ownership.

Elagina added that coding and programming was becoming increasingly important as an indispensable element in modern anti-corruption work. Moreover, many people in Russia often have no idea of how big the economic difference is between various positions and offices. When highlighting this, it is possible to touch people emotionally and make them aware of the problem.
IRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption - Panel VIRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption (© bpb/Dorothea Tuch)

Dangers of investigative journalism

What about solidarity between the different types of media? In the course of the disclosure of the Panama Papers, it was possible to show clearly that the media can have a very strong and powerful influence. However, as Sedletska pointed out, that influence differs from country to country. In Ukraine, the world of the media is divided: one part is strongly leaning towards the president, which often leads to her as representative of independent journalism being called a "Russian spy" (an insinuation that seems strange with regard to an American-funded format). It is an experience that Elagina, who is called a "Ukrainian spy", shares.

Asked about the dangers of investigative work, Radu stressed that independent journalists are especially vulnerable. He is lucky enough to enjoy the protection of his network. Sedletska spoke about how state infrastructure is used to target journalists. Elagina, too, described state repression experienced by journalists on the ground. It may even end in cars being set on fire or legs broken.

In the final round, Radu highlighted yet again the role of the Western countries that, in his view, are "partners-in-the-crime-of-corruption" in Eastern Europe. There would obviously be less corruption if cleptocrats would find no country to transfer the money to. In addition, the panellists underlined the important role of protests and the increasing availability of independent information for the fight against corruption.

Summary: Simon Clemens

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