The Afghan journalist Zaki Daryabi and the Kazakh whistleblower Botakoz Kopbayeva received the 2020 Anti-Corruption Award on Wednesday at the 19th International Anti-Corruption Conference.
“This award shows that our work is seen and institutions stand with us,” said Daryabi, who has tirelessly covered corruption in Afghanistan and shared the award with his newspaper Etilaat Roz.
Kopbayeva exposed the theft of student scholarships and other financial corruption as an official at the Kazakh National Conservatory and said she hoped her award would be “an incentive for people who are afraid to report corruption.” She pursued her investigations even after suffering a home break-in and physical assault.
The awards ceremony was preceded by a panel on Defending the Truth: Countering Fake News and Manipulation. Patrick Alley, the co-founder of Global Witness, pointed out how effective political leaders like Trump, Bolsoñaro, Putin and Erdogan have become at spreading fake news and propaganda. What can we do when simply telling the truth is no longer enough to win an argument?
Alley called for governments to step up and hold big tech companies accountable for the spread of disinformation on their platforms. Societies need to demand more transparency on political advertisements and invest in quality journalism, he said.
Maria Teresa Ronderos, Director at Centro Latinamericano de Investigación Periodística, highlighted the challenges facing investigative journalism in Latin America. Not only do organised criminals and government officials try to intimidate investigative journalists, but echo chambers on social media now undermine their work and credibility as well.
Ronderos called for journalists to collaborate more across borders. “If journalists support each other and collaborate in cross-border investigations to expose corruption, our stories are more credible to the public,” she said. Collaborations would also enhance safety and solidarity for journalists, many of whom work alone and are vulnerable to intimidation.
“It is easy to silence journalists and those who reveal corruption”, said filmmaker Juliana Fanjul. Her documentary Radio Silence tells the story of the independent Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui, who was fired from her radio programme in 2015 after revealing a scandal involving then-President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Anti-Corruption Award winner Daryabi echoed calls for more collaboration. “In our deeply interconnected world, corruption is not a local or regional issue,” he said. “Corruption is a global menace and fighting it anywhere it appears is our collective responsibility.”