Protecting Journalists Who Cover Corruption Is Good For The Bottom Line

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Corruption is one of the most dangerous beats for journalists, and one of the most important for holding those in power to account.

There is growing international recognition that corruption is also one of the biggest impediments to poverty reduction and good governance.

This is why journalists on this beat must be protected, including by multilateral lending institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which just concluded their annual meetings in Washington D.C.

At a civil society forum on the sidelines of the meetings last week, World Bank President Jim Young Kim and IMF President Christine Lagarde, leaders of two of the world’s most important lenders to poor countries, cited concern over corruption and the damaging impact that tax evasion has on poverty alleviation.

But with recipient countries often ranking among the more corrupt and least accountable, the issue of who pays taxes and where the money goes is often buried in secrecy.

In Pakistan, a major recipient of investment lending from the World Bank, journalist and winner of CPJ’s 2011 International Press Freedom Award, Umar Cheema, was kidnapped and brutally attacked after writing critical articles about corruption in Pakistan.

But he refused to be deterred and went on to launch an investigative reporting center dedicated to tax analysis in a country where few political appointees pay taxes.

“Particularly in repressive societies, or places run by oligarchs and overlords, journalists risk both their freedom and their safety simply by reporting on corruption and conflicts of interest,” David Kaplan, executive director of the Global Investigative Journalism Network, an association of more than 138 member organizations in 62 countries, said in an interview.

“Yet I can think of no graver issue faced by our members than corruption. It comes up in every issue we report on — the economy, crime, health care, education, the environment.” 

Courtney C. Radsch/CPJ Advocacy Director

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