In cleaning up some articles I saved for reference, I came across one from the Sept. 25 New York Times — U.S. Gift for Iraqis Offers a Primer on Corruption.
Simply put the article looked at the theft of 8,000 computers from the United States destined for school children in Iraq, most likely by government officials in Iraq.
I held on to the article for a few reasons, not the least was the corruption angle and the lackluster response of the U.S. embassy to the situation.
But for purposes here, the events laid out in the article provide another example of the importance of free and independent news media.
Author of the article Steven Lee Myers points out in the third to last graf:
Today’s Iraq may be corrupt, saddled with a bureaucracy from Saddam Hussein’s era that has changed little, and hobbled by a political impasse that has blocked the formation of a new government nearly seven months after parliamentary elections. But Iraqis — the media, politicians, average citizens — are freer than ever to denounce the wrongdoing of bureaucrats and thieves, even if to little effect.
It is that last sentence that tells the whole story of how to fight corruption. Freedom of press, speech and assembly are vital to keeping a government honest.
For now the Iraqis may be feeling that their complaints have “little effect” when it comes to corruption. But if the Iraqi media stand up against corruption by relentlessly investigating it and reporting it, then they might see some changes.
It really is no surprise that the 10 most repressive governments in the world are also among the list of top 10 corrupt governments. A free press is the best hope for people looking for accountability in their governments. And that is why dictators from Beijing to Tehran to Havana fear a free press.