Journalists as Partners in the Fight Against Corruption

Dec 9, 2015

UNDP has been supporting the Anticorruption Agency of Serbia since the beginning of its operations back in 2010 and has continued supporting the country’s anticorruption agenda ever since.

We are pleased to be able to share preliminary data from the 10th anticorruption benchmarking survey that is just being finalized, showing real impact of the efforts of Serbian authorities and society in the fight against corruption. We are thankful to have been providing support to the achievement of this impact. Namely, 8% of respondents have had direct experience with corruption in the past three months, which is a sustained low percentage since 2012. The good news is also that more people know about the Anticorruption Agency, reaching 85% of respondents this time.

It is also interesting to note however, that this time, citizens expect action from courts, leading on the list of institutions citizens now perceive as primary in the fight against corruption (it used to be the Government). Citizens request stronger enforcement measures as a priority, which is also logical as enforcement gives short term measures. Not to underestimate, however, the need for prevention – the more prevention today, the less need for enforcement tomorrow.

While transparency is a powerful prevention tool, if we connect this notion to good media reporting, then we also get a strong input for proactive investigations and building of a solid track record in enforcement, which is at the focus of EU negotiations and requirements under Chapter 23. In that sense, UNDP attempted to forge partnerships between the media, civil society and authorities, together with the Anticorruption Agency, back in 2012 and 2013. We proposed to the Agency to introduce an innovative approach of placing investigative journalists within NGOs. This way, the journalists received independent institutional backing, rendering them free of editorial policy, as well as an NGO analytical base. On the other hand, the NGOs received professional support for promoting their work and a strong outreach tool through, primarily social media that produced impact quickly. As a result of this piloting, over 40 corruption related stories were published, a lot of them picked up by mainstream media, while some lead to institutional reactions, initiation of prosecution and even arrests.

We went on with upscaling this methodology, forged strong partnerships with existing journalistic-type NGOs as well, and supported the research of cases of misuse of public funds. As a result of this and last year’s activities, over 140 stories were published, while about 20 of them led to institutional reactions, while one story led to a change in the management of a municipality.

Let me conclude by emphasizing the importance of strong, sound and independent investigative journalism. When we asked colleagues from Finland, which was ranked high on the Corruption Perception Index, what is their strongest tool in the fight against corruption, given that they don’t have a particular institutional setup in that regard, their answer was – the media! Let us continue working together to emulate their succes in Serbia.


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