In recognition of World Press Freedom Day, Transparency International (TI) is now calling for nominations for its Integrity Awards 2005. The annual awards programme honours the courage and determination of individuals and organisations fighting corruption around the world. Since the Awards were first held in 2000, TI has honoured six journalists posthumously for their bravery and determination to expose corruption. The drive to promote greater access to publicly held information is a priority for Transparency International as the leading global non-governmental organisation devoted to combating corruption worldwide.
The media is a vital watchdog to hold those in power to account and to ensure that society is transparent and accountable. The ability of journalists to accurately inform the public is hampered, however, by weak or non-existent access to information legislation, and in some cases by direct threats on journalists' lives.
"On World Press Freedom Day, we call on governments to recognise the rights of those in the media to carry out their legitimate and important work in conditions of safety," said David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of Transparency International, speaking from Berlin. "The media is an essential conduit for the prompt and accurate flow of information and, along with civil society organisations, is vital for calling businesses and politicians to account." National chapters of TI have campaigned in many countries for freedom of information laws that give the media, civil society and the general public access to information. Under their scrutiny governments are taking steps to further the cause of transparency.
"The press can play a leading role in fighting corruption, through rigorous investigative reporting of issues that affect the quality of governance", said TI's director for Africa and the Middle East Muzong Kodi, speaking in Dakar, Senegal at today's UNESCO event to commemorating World Press Freedom Day.
Corruption will continue to thrive without the vigilance of the media and civil society, and the bravery of investigative journalists and whistleblowers in particular. These champions of transparency are essential in the developing and developed world. Investigative journalists who expose corruption often put themselves and their families at great risk. TI's Integrity Awards honours individuals and organisations who have significantly reduced the levels of corruption in their respective countries. A sad reminder of the dangers faced by journalists who report on corruption is the fact that many of the awards TI has extended to journalists have been offered posthumously.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, one of the major causes of death of journalists in 2005 includes reporting on government corruption. Bangladesh remains the most violent country for journalists in Asia. In 2004 TI honoured veteran Bangladeshi journalist Manik Saha who was killed in the southwestern city of Khulna when unidentified assailants threw a homemade bomb at him.
Carlos Alberto Cardoso, an investigative journalist in Mozambique, was assassinated in November 2000 while investigating the largest banking fraud in the country's history. Georgy Gongadze, a Ukrainian journalist who wrote about the corruption of the Ukrainian government on his Internet news service, was decapitated in autumn 2000.
The TI Integrity Awards are presented annually and are open to nominations worldwide. The TI Integrity Awards selection committee is composed of leading anti-corruption activists from around the world, including TI Integrity Awards 2001 winner Eva Joly, the investigating magistrate for the Elf-Aquitaine oil corruption case in France. Last year the committee received nominations from more than 30 countries and every continent.
"It is through the actions of courageous and determined individuals who share a passion for justice that the fight against corruption continues. TI Integrity Awards winners are a source of inspiration to all of us," said TI Chairman Peter Eigen.
The fifth annual TI Integrity Awards will be presented at the opening ceremony of TI's annual membership meeting in Berlin, Germany on 11 November 2005. Nominations close on 1 July 2005.
For more on the Integrity Awards please see: http://www.transparency.org/getinvolved/anticorruptionaward
For more on Access to Information please see TI's Global Corruption Report 2003.
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