“Communicating the fight against corruption” was the second panel that I had the honour to moderate last month in Kyiv.
Corruption is multifaceted and, in different countries, it may have different manifestations. Consequently, it presents a complex
and persistent communication challenge. Anti-corruption communications should be relevant to the society and resonate with culturally accepted norms, while they are targeted at changing the paradigm of what is “culturally accepted”.
The opening statements of the rst panellist, Davis Sirmais contained one of the day’s most memorable messages: “Corruption is the prostitution of power”. Sirmais explained that like many public institutions, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau of Latvia suffers from a lack of resources, which necessitates a catchy and creative approach to getting messages across. “We need to compete with YouTube videos, where the most popular subjects are cats and dogs,” he said. He also recommended forming mutually bene cial partnerships with, for example, universities to produce communications material in order to obtain cost-effective campaigns.
Daria Manzhura underlined that one of the biggest challenges for any anti- corruption agency is managing expectations. Expectations of anti-corruption bodies are very high and it is easy for disappointment or cynicism on the part of the public to set in as a consequence. An anti-corruption agency has to counter views that not enough is being done, while also explaining their scope of activity. Manzhura offered the example of NABU’s outreach activity, where often they receive questions from members of the public that are nothing to do with the work of the agency. These challenges make clear and effective communication, with concise content all the more important. She also stressed the importance of third party engagement, i.e. getting journalists, civil society activists, members of the international community etc. to act as multipliers of NABU’s messages.
The Editor-in-Chief of Censor.net, Yurii Butusov took up the question of how to avoid empty rhetoric. Like Daria Manzhura, he acknowledged the numerous challenges faced by anti-corruption agencies and cast scepticism on the ability of the Ukrainian authorities to ght corruption. Nonetheless, he was complimentary about NABU’s efforts, including in the communications sphere. The best anti-corruption communicators, he stated, are potentially those working in state institutions – in a climate where there is a lack of trust in government, people working in government have the ability to uncover and communicate corruption, in his opinion.
For Maksym Gryshchuk, the best method to communicate anti-corruption reform was to provide information on results and progress achieved. He noted that until 2014, the law enforcement system in Ukraine was very reluctant to share information. By contrast, currently it is possible to receive a lot of information from of cial websites. He cautioned however against using such information to make political points – during criminal proceedings, justice has to be served and an oversharing of information can endanger a successful outcome in his opinion.
Like other panellists, Oleksandr Lemenov was keen to emphasise that the environment in terms of institutional communication has improved signi cantly since the Revolution of Dignity. He was particularly complimentary about the communications efforts of the new, anti-corruption bodies. He stated that a case like Roman Nasirov’s would have been unimaginable previously in terms of the cooperation in communication between law enforcement and civil society.
Overall, the panellists agreed that the new anti-corruption agencies had to meet the challenge of establishing trust with society. They expressed optimism however and underlined the importance of communicating with children to ght corruption. As Daria Manzhura pointed out, children and young people are not only citizens of the future, but they also play a part in in uencing the behaviour of their parents.
The full report of the conference can be found here: report