What can journalists do to fight corruption in the water sector?

Corruption in the water sector can mean that money intended to improve water infrastructure and increase people’s access to clean water is misused. When money gets diverted, people continue to rely on insecure and polluted water sources for hygiene, drinking and food preparation purposes.

Corruption and lack of accountability can also mean that powerful agro-industrial operations and businesses divert much needed water from small-scale farmers who rely on irrigation from the rivers to grow the crops and make a living, especially in the dry season.

These types of corrupt practices, as well as many others, particularly affect marginalised groups. As a result, they are often not reported on. The situation is compounded by the fact that water users affected by corruption often do not know where or how to access information, what their rights are, and how to solve these difficult situations. Moreover, they may not know how to tell the story of water-related corruption in a compelling way that attracts the attention of the public.

New networks to address the information gap in Africa

There are initiatives to address the problems associated with the lack of access to information. In Africa, for example, water journalists across the continent are taking action to increase water users’ knowledge about water, to improve participation, and to increase access to information by forming networks.

Two organisations have been founded to group and support water journalists, the Water Journalists Africa and the WASH West Africa Journalists Network. Similar networks also exist within countries, including Benin, India and Nigeria.

The Water Integrity Network (WIN) believes that journalists have the potential to play a key role in the water sector and that they can act as watchdogs to hold the right people accountable for wrongdoing. By promoting journalists reporting on water stories, the journalists of both these organisations are already improving integrity in their countries while also increasing participation and transparency in water- and sanitation-related debates and discussions.

Training journalists on water sector corruption and integrity

Journalist training in Kenya

To solve the water corruption dilemma, journalists also need to have a good understanding of the water sector and the roles of the actors in the sector to better report on the topic. Moreover, integrity is a complex concept that requires some unpacking.

To address this, WIN teamed up with Transparency International Kenya, a chapter of Transparency International’s global movement, to organise its first training for journalists on water integrity. The training took place in Kenya over three days in July, and 11 journalists from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda participated. Through the training, participants were able increase their understanding of the water sector and its governance, as well as of the accountability of the different actors in the sector. They also discussed the role of the journalists in making the sector more transparent, and went on a field visit that formed the basis of stories. The training was much appreciated and the participants were keen on learning more about the way that the water sector functions as well as of the roles of the different actors in the sector.

WIN will be looking at strengthening collaboration with journalists in the future and continuing to collaborate with the journalists that joined the training.

About the Water Integrity Network

The Water Integrity Network (WIN) was formed in 2006 to respond to increasing concerns among water and anti-corruption stakeholders over corruption in the water sector. It combines global advocacy, regional networks and local action, to promote increased transparency and integrity, bringing together partners and members from the public and private sectors, civil society and academia, to drive change that will improve the lives of people who need it most.

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

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