Crackdown on media, NGOs linked to low global corruption index scores

Michael Bueza
Crackdown on media, NGOs linked to low global corruption index scores
Transparency International says, 'Given current crackdowns on both civil society and the media worldwide, we need to do more to protect those who speak up'

MANILA, Philippines – Countries that provide less protection to the media and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) tend to get lower scores in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), said anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.

The group said in a statement that their analysis of the CPI 2017 results, released on Wednesday, February 21, “indicates that countries with the lowest protections for press and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also tend to have the worst rates of corruption.”

This can be observed in the Philippines, said Alejandro Salas, an Asia-Pacific senior expert at Transparency International, in an email to Rappler.

“Unfortunately in recent years, the space for civil society and journalists in your country has been reduced,” said Salas. 

“There is less tolerance from the regime to criticism, and it is unfortunate that journalists are constantly threatened and suffer attacks against their physical integrity, even murder.” (READ: From Marcos to Duterte: How media was attacked, threatened)

The Philippines ranked 111th out of 180 countries in the 2017 CPI. Its score of 34 is lower by one point compared to the 2015 and 2016 indices. 

“Duterte has talked a lot about his campaign against corruption, but unfortunately these are only words as there can’t be a real and honest anticorruption campaign if citizens, organizations, and the media are scared and punished if they denounce or demand accountability,” Salas added.

Incorporating data from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Transparency International found in their analysis that “in the last 6 years, more than 9 out of 10 journalists were killed in countries that score 45 or less” in the index. 

“This means that, on average, every week at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt. In addition, one in 5 journalists that died were covering a story about corruption,” they added.

“Sadly, justice was never served in the majority of these cases,” the group continued.

“No activist or reporter should have to fear for their lives when speaking out against corruption. Given current crackdowns on both civil society and the media worldwide, we need to do more to protect those who speak up,” said Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International.

Space for civic participation

Meanwhile, TI said they also explored whether there was a relation between corruption levels and the freedom with which civic organizations are able to operate and influence public policy.

Data from the World Justice Project, also incorporated in the group’s analysis, showed that most countries that score low for civil liberties “also tend to score high for corruption.”

“Smear campaigns, harassment, lawsuits and bureaucratic red tape are all tools used by certain governments in an effort to quiet those who drive anti-corruption efforts,” said Moreira. “We’re calling on those governments that hide behind restrictive laws to roll them back immediately and allow for greater civic participation.”

She cited a case in Hungary, where a proposed law “threatens to restrict NGOs and revoke their charitable status.”

“This would have disastrous implications for many civil society groups already experiencing the constraining effects of a previous law that stigmatizes NGOs based on their funding structures,” the group added.

Hungary’s score has decreased by 10 points over the last 6 years, from 55 in the 2012 CPI to 45 in the 2017 CPI, noted Transparency International. – Rappler.com

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Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.