Corruption is a serious problem facing all nations. It continues to retard national development and results in human suffering. Corruption comes in many guises. Bribery, extortion, fraud, trafficking, embezzlement, nepotism and cronyism are all different manifestations of this disease.
Corruption has created a major concern worldwide and is being talked about openly in almost every country. Very few countries deny they suffer from it. This is why the issue has created an unusual opportunity for politicians, business and labor leaders, journalists and civil society to partner with anti-corruption bodies in urgently stamping it out.
Though all of these collaborative institutions are relevant in the fight against corruption, a free and independent media plays a very important role in this effort. It serves as the best tool to inform people of corruption. Anti-corruption bodies depend on the media to enlighten and present them with accurate information that helps to reveal fraud and expose dishonesty.
By investigating and reporting on corruption, the media informs the public about corrupt activities, both within the government and among public officials, as well as within the private sector. The media provides information with which citizens can hold both public and private institutions to account. It promotes anti-corruption efforts of civil groups as well as action by official bodies in charge of investigating or prosecuting corrupt acts.
The media in Liberia enjoys high level of press freedom and independence. There is widespread report of corruption in the media which has led to national and international outcries. Today, the issue of corruption is widely discussed in all sectors of society. This is a result of the new political dispensation the country is experiencing.
Inevitably, when official proceedings are conducted in an inept manner, the media can push for reform by highlighting legal and institutional inadequacies. One of the most dramatic ways in which the media contributes to the fight against corruption is when news reports exposing misdeeds lead to the forced resignation of public office holders.
This may be rare in Africa, but real on other continents. In Latin America alone, the media has in recent years played a central role in exposing corruption resulting in the ousting of national leaders such as President Bucaram of Ecuador, President Collor of Brazil, President Fujimori of Peru, President Perez in Venezuela and other leading politicians. In the Philippines, the investigations of journalists into the unexplained wealth of President Joseph Estrada played a crucial role in his eventual downfall.
Despite the appreciable role the media plays as a partner in fighting corruption, it is also faced with numerous obstacles. Investigative reporting is very risky and requires extraordinary courage. This is why many news organizations hardly do investigative work. Investigative reporting journalists should be trained to investigate and expose corruption as well as to recognize well in advance the dangers connected with such investigations and the proper means to ensure their protection and safekeeping.
Corruption among journalists is prevalent. The media, like other organizations, faces professional and administrative corruption. They can use their pen to blackmail people or for the advantage of people they favor. Journalists in mostly developing countries, like Liberia, suffer from low pay, lack of medical and retirement provisions. This is the consequence of a weak economic situation in the respective country that makes the journalists’ existence dependent on bribes, gifts and benefits. Thus, resisting the temptation of corruption is not easy.
It prevents them from being independent and independence is one of the fundamental elements of professional journalism. The journalists’ ability to investigate corruption is then compromised by their own unprofessional conduct. It is therefore important that the salary of journalists in these countries be raised because any news published by media outlets regarding crimes of corruption is considered an authoritative statement and taken seriously. Corrupt people will never fight corruption. If corruption is spread through media outlets, society will lose one of the most important weapons in the fight against corruption.
The LACC considers the media as a key partner in this fight and cannot afford to lose an important associate This is why the Commission on the observance of the 2010 international anti-corruption day awarded certificates of recognition to two Liberian media institutions for their outstanding and uncompromising reportage on issues of corruption in Liberia. The recognition is a way of encouraging the media to be vigorous and forceful in its reportorial work. Better salaries and benefits for media personnel are also crucial in enhancing their work.
By Ben Kolako