The Role of the Media in Curbing Corruption
Rod Macdonell and Milica Pesic
As chapters 2 and 4 noted, a critical element of a country’s anti-corruption program is effective media. The media have a dual role to play: they not only raise public awareness about the causes, consequences, and possible remedies of corruption, but they also investigate and report incidents of corruption. In this regard, the media depend on parliament to promote a favorable legal environment for the media. In addition, parliament often finds an ally in the media for overseeing government and ensuring accountability. It is important, too, that parliament itself is open to the scrutiny of the media.
This chapter is divided into three parts. The first examines the tangible effects of journalism on corruption. It highlights eight ways that the media can directly affect the incidence of corruption: exposing corrupt officials, prompting investigations by authorities, exposing commercial wrongdoing, reinforcing the work of anti-corruption offices, providing a check on anti-corruption offices, promoting accountability at the polls, pressuring for change to laws and regulations, and encouraging officials to avoid adverse publicity. The second reviews the intangible effects of journalism on corruption. The final part considers ways in which the media can be strengthened, in particular what parliament can do to ensure a strong and independent media.1
Exposing corrupt officials is probably the most effective way in which the media can shine a spotlight on wrongdoing.
The most obvious examples of journalism’s potential for curbing corruption can be seen when politicians or other senior public officials lose their jobs as a consequence of the public outcry or legal proceedings that follow reporting on corruption.
Certainly, the world was reminded in 2005 of the infamous Watergate case and the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, brought about in large part by the brilliant investigative journalism of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward
1 This chapter draws upon and substantially updates Stapenhurst (2000).