Transparency International Vanuatu’s (TIV) Board Member, who is also a prominent long-time media activists and at the same time currently serving as the President for the Media Assosiesen blong Vanuatu (MAV), Mrs. Evelyne Toa, recently attended a UN Convention Against Corruption training in Tonga.
The two day training provided insights into the Convention and the work of the UN Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption (UN-PRAC) project. It aimed to build the capacity of selected journalists to prevent, detect and investigate cases of corruption through greater awareness of United Nations Conventions Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the media’s role as a non-state actor.
Mrs. Evelyne Toa said that journalists or reporters usually target government officials and leaders in their investigations over issues of corruptions, and they put less focus on the civil society sector.
“However, at the workshop, participants came to realize and learn that corruption is everywhere, in the local communities and within the government,” she said.
Mrs. Toa also emphasized the fact that there is the practice of not following up on stories, furthermore budget restrictions is a major challenge to effective investigations and reporting’s.
“The workshop also noted that lack of funds is something to consider because it can hinder investigations. That is very true in Vanuatu’s situation, where journalists don’t always receive back-up from their management, and most today who are free lances find it more difficult,” she said.
Mrs. Evelyne Toa calls on journalists in Vanuatu and whistle-blowers to continue to report and fight against corruption.
“As MAV president and also as a member of Transparency (International Vanuatu), use media as a messenger, and whistle blowers should not refrain in reporting corruption. Despite the fact that some of us were threatened in the past, we must continue to fight corruption and influence our leaders to change their behaviors,” she said.
“For Transparency as a way forward, setting up an Anti-Corruption Commission would be a good idea,” Mrs. Toa added.
Annika Wythes, who is the Anti-Corruption Adviser for the Pacific with the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, said “the question is no longer ‘why’ we should be fighting corruption, but rather ‘how’. The general consensus – supported by the number of ratifying countries – is that the platform to be used is the UN Convention against Corruption.”
“While governments, the private sector and civil society have essential roles to play, media involvement and commitment is also vital because of their role as public watchdog, protecting public interests and raising awareness,” Annika Wythes said.
More than 30 journalists from Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu’s Evelyne Toa and Antoine Malsungai from the Vanuatu Broadcasting Television Corporation (VBTC) participated in that two-day workshop.
The training was an activity of the UN Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption project, a four-year joint initiative of UNDP and UNODC, supported by the Australian Government. UNDP’s Tonga Governance Strengthening Programme, also supported by the Australian Government, assisted in the training.
The joint UNDP-UNODC project aims to help Pacific Island countries and territories fight corruption by supporting: i) ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC); ii) UNCAC implementation through the strengthening of policies, laws, measures and institutional frameworks; and iii) engagement in UNCAC processes, including the Implementation Review Mechanism.
The project draws on the strong global partnership and comparative advantages of both organizations in the fight against corruption.