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India

Of Legitimacy and Flash Mobs

Sumir Lal's picture

For those of us committed to democracy and interested in matters of governance and citizen accountability, the theatrics in India involving the anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare pose a neat little dilemma. For, we love freely-elected governments and positively swoon over articulate civil society advocates, and here we have a situation where the two are in a head-on collision. So who’s the good guy? Whose side should we be on?

Hazare is pushing an anti-corruption bill that would give immense (possibly corruption-inducing and governance-disrupting) powers to an unelected ombudsman. The government is countering with a version that would keep key functionaries out of the ombudsman’s purview, arguably defeating the very purpose. Take your pick.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA)
Funding Free Expression: Perceptions and Reality in a Changing Landscape

"CIMA is pleased to release a new report, Funding Free Expression: Perceptions and Reality in a Changing Landscape, by Anne Nelson, a veteran journalist, journalism educator, and media consultant. This report, researched in collaboration with the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), explores shifts in funding patterns for international freedom of expression activity. It is based on a survey of 21 major donors representing a broad range of private foundations and and government and multilateral aid agencies in North America and Europe. Among other key findings, the report explains that despite perceptions of shrinking support for freedom of expression, funding appears to have increased in recent years." READ MORE

Impact Blog - USAID
How Free is Your Media? A USAID-Funded Tool Provides Insight

"On May 3, the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day. Reflecting on the day’s events, a few important questions arise about what role the media plays in a community and in a democracy.

First, how does freedom of the press compare to freedom of speech? Not only do journalists need freedom to speak and write without fear of censorship, retribution, or violence, but also they need professional training and access to information in order to produce high-quality work. Furthermore, journalists need to work within an organization that is effectively managed, which preserves editorial independence. People need multiple news sources that offer reliable and objective news, and societies need legal and social norms that promote access to public information." READ MORE

The Real Indian Idol Wins Fights Against Corruption

Tanya Gupta's picture

In my last blog, I wrote about ADR, which is fighting corruption using the Right to Information Act.  In the early 2000s, Anna Hazare (Anna is pronounced un-nah) led a movement in the Indian state of Maharashtra that forced the Government to pass a strong Right to Information Act.  This Maharashtra Act formed the basis for the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI), enacted by the Central Government.  Anna Hazare has once again fought and won a significant battle against corruption. Anna was, until recently fasting until death at Jantar Mantar in order to put pressure on the Government of India to enact an anti-corruption act called the Jan Lokpal Bill.  This past Saturday he called off his “hunger strike” after receiving a gazette notification from the Centre on the constitution of a joint committee, comprising members from the government and civil society, for preparation of the draft Lokpal Bill. This bill proposes the establishment of a Lokpal (ombudsman) with the power to counter corruption in public office.

Ring the Bell and Stop the Violence

Sabina Panth's picture

Media has long been a powerful force for empowerment.  New media content is constantly being created with the purpose of encouraging citizens to address issues at the local, national and international levels.  One such example is India’s Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell) campaign, which has used new media channels to catch the attention of local youth on the important issue of domestic violence and encourage them to become a part of the solution.

Myneta.info: India’s Technology Transition From Software Giant to Fighting Corruption

Tanya Gupta's picture

When India first started using technology for national development, it used technology to build a huge software industry which helped the economy grow in the 1990s. In the decades that followed, with a much improved economy, civic minded Indians set their sights on a much loftier goal – tackling corruption.

In July 2008 The Washington Post reported that nearly a fourth of the 540 Indian Parliament members faced criminal charges, "including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder". The criminalization of politics causes a huge drain of public resources and the resulting loss of credibility for politicians dissuades civic minded citizens from stepping forward. Unfortunately the average voter often has little to no idea of the criminal background of some of these Parliament members and hence public opinion cannot be used to throw them out of power. The media, too, does not have capacity to focus on all the corruption cases and usually focuses on the most egregious violations.  

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

One International
Why transparency in the extractive industries matters for women

"Each year around the world, International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8, with thousands of events occurring not just on this day, but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.

As the world marks this special day ONE spoke to Winnie Ngabiirwe, Chairperson of Publish What You Pay Uganda and Executive Director of Global Rights Alert, on why transparency in the extractives industries will benefit women in Uganda and other countries.

Winnie leads the effort to make sure revenues received for Uganda’s recently discovered oil are not wasted, and are put towards social and economic development programmes."

Show Me Your I.D., Please!

Johanna Martinsson's picture

If someone were to ask you to identify yourself, you would probably reach into your purse, or pocket, and pull out some form of identification.  Without it, one loses some of the basic benefits of living in a society. You cannot open a bank account, purchase a home, or vote, and so on.  Many countries, however, don’t have a functional identification system.  In India, for example, millions of citizens are unable to benefit from social and financial services because they don’t have proper identification.  Also, current welfare databases are plagued with fake names and duplications, entered by corrupt officials. Thus, the country has embarked on a massive identification project that will be one of the largest citizens’ databases of its kind.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

OpenAid
This is how aid transparency could look like

"People who argue for more transparency in development cooperation are often eager to point out all the merits of transparency. Unfortunately, often we are not very sure whether our claims are well founded. Even worse, there are very few examples who can illustrate how exactly, "more transparency" could look like. The International Aid Transparency Initiative which will be implemented by the first donors in 2011 is a concrete example of governmental and multilateral donors representing a large percentage of global ODA making aid information available and accessible.

Also, in non-governmental development cooperations efforts are underway to increase accountability and transparency. The UK-based NGO OneWorldTrust even created a website to map over 300 NGO accountability initiatives around the world. But there are few concrete examples of making the information about work of more than one NGO transparent and easily accessible."

Safety in Numbers

Antonio Lambino's picture

A few days ago, The New York Times published a piece on Indian citizens who have been intimidated, harassed, and killed because they made access to information requests on questionable government activities.  Many previous posts on this blog have featured successes and failures regarding various country experiences on right/access to information laws and their uneven implementation.  We have discussed threats and violence experienced by courageous people who have attempted to use such laws to dig up corrupt practices occurring in their own backyards.  These individuals are especially brave because they are located where the many eyes and ears of the mighty and powerful can easily find them.  They have nowhere to hide. 

Why You Need to Become 'Mediactive'

Johanna Martinsson's picture

“We're in an age of information overload, and too much of what we watch, hear and read is mistaken, deceitful or even dangerous. Yet you and I can take control and make media serve us --all of us--by being active consumers and participants.”

This statement appears on the cover of Dan Gillmor’s newly launched publication, Mediactive.  In the book, Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, provides tips and tools for how citizens can (and need to) become active consumers and producers of information.

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