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

Written by Alexandra Malmqvist, Communications Coordinator at WIN. This post was also featured as a news item on the Transparency International website.

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 have to 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 the powerful farmers and businesses divert the much needed water from small scale farmers who especially in dry season rely on irrigation from the rivers to grow the crops and make a living.

Participants at the training on water integrity for journalists in East Africa

These types of corrupt practices, as well as many others, particularly affect marginalised groups. But they are often not reported on. Moreover, 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. They may also not know how to tell the story of corruption in water in a compelling way to get the attention of the public.

Initiatives however do exist to address the problems of 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 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 exist also within countries, such as in Nigeria, India and Benin. 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 wrongdoings. By promoting journalists reporting on water stories, the journalists of both organisations are already improving integrity in their countries as it increases participation and transparency.

However, 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. 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 and eleven journalists from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda participated. 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.

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