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21. 03. 2014

ANEM Presented its Radio and TV Series and Project ’Illustrated Glossary of Corruption’

ANEM presented 'Illustrated Glossary of Corruption'
On the occasion of the launch of its radio and TV series 'Illustrated Glossary of Corruption', ANEM held a press conference in Belgrade on 20 March 2014. The series is the key activity of ANEM project bearing the same title, also presented at the event. The project is implemented in partnership with the Anti-Corruption Agency, and it is financed by the European Union within the Civil Society Facility Serbia Programme. The press conference was attended by more than 30 media and journalists, representatives of the media community, responsible authorities and other interested stakeholders.

Presenting the project, Milorad Tadić, president of ANEM, said that ANEM began the implementation of the project 'Illustrated Glossary of Corruption' in December 2012, having in mind the role of the media in democratization of the society, and with the intention to contribute to the prevention and fight against corruption. The project duration is 18 months - until May 2014. Tadić underlined that the main partner on the project was the Anti-Corruption Agency and that the project was financed by the European Union.

The main goal of the project is contribution to a more efficient prevention of corruption and the fight against it, Tadić explained and added that ANEM hoped that the project would encourage a more active involvement of citizens and the media in the process. He stated that the project was directed at several target groups - first, at the media and citizens, then at the civil society, but also at the state institutions, with the aim to encourage them in the continued fight against corruption. 

Talking about the project activities, Tadić explained that at the very start of the project consultants prof. Čedomir Čupić, PhD, and Zlatko Minić defined key terms related to corruption which were elaborated in the series consisting of 21 radio and 21 TV episodes. 17 journalists, out of whom 14 from ANEM's local and regional media, worked on the series. Each of the 20 episodes deals with one of the 20 key terms related to corruption, explaining the term by means of illustrating it with a local story/case, with an expert explanation understandable to the broad public. The last, 21st episode, summarizes the previous ones. The episodes were filmed in 16 cities throughout Serbia and in Belgrade.

The series will be broadcast as of 24 March 2014 on 25 TV stations and 40 radio stations throughout Serbia. In Belgrade it will be broadcast on the B92 Info channel, Tadić said. The episodes will be broadcast every work day during 4 weeks, while the last episode will be broadcast in the end of April. After their premiere broadcasting on ANEM stations, the episodes will be posted on the ANEM YouTube channel and on the ANEM website.

The chosen 20 key terms are also the basis for the electronic, textual 'Glossary of Corruption', comprised by prof. Čupić and Zlatko Minić. The publication will be available in May on ANEM website, Tadić said. Within the project, ANEM organized two seminars for media - members of the ANEM network. One of the seminars, which lasted two days, was conducted by the educators from the Anti-Corruption Agency. The other was conducted by renowned journalists Brankica Stanković and Danica Vučenić, and the lawyers from the ANEM legal team. An additional form of education of journalists will be provided in the form of 'The Guide on Reporting on Corruption', prepared by the ANEM legal team. The publication will be available in May 2014 to ANEM members. As the final activity on the project, ANEM will organize a round table in May in Belgrade on the role of the media in the fight against corruption, Tadić said.

Tadić stressed excellent cooperation with the main partner on the project - the Anti-Corruption Agency. He stated that the cooperation between the Agency, as the most important state authority in the fight against corruption, and ANEM, as the largest association of broadcast media in Serbia, was very important effect of the project as it could contribute to better results both in the prevention of corruption and the fight against it.

Addressing the partner cooperation on the project, Vladan Joksimović, deputy director of the Anti-Corruption Agency, said that the Agency recognized the project as important and it has been pleased to cooperate with ANEM on it.

Joksimović said that that the media in Serbia were dominated by sensationalist reporting in general, and particularly when it comes to the issue of corruption. The media often violate the presumption of innocence and provide unverified and inaccurate information, which does not contribute to the systemic fight against corruption, but only to sensationalist journalism and boosting circulation of certain media, explained Joksimović. He said that was in the interest of the Agency that journalists understood the issues they reported on and that the information they imparted was accurate and complete. Therefore, the Agency supports every project which develops investigative journalism, and ANEM's project is such.

Joksimović explained that the Agency sees the project 'Illustrated Glossary of Corruption' as important because it offered concrete examples and thus opened new possibilities for the citizens to find out more about forms of corrupt behaviour and the role of the independent state authorities in the prevention of it.

Additionally, it is important that through this project the Agency cooperates with civil society organizations and the media on raising anti-corruption awareness, Joksimović said. He also stated as positive the fact that the journalists from local media worked on the series because it could lead to their better understanding of the corruption-related problems and reporting on local circumstances and activities of local public office holders.

Joksimović also stressed that several meetings were held with the Agency representatives, such as with prof. Čupić and Zlatko Minić, now former members of the Board of the Anti-Corruption Agency, who contributed towards formulating and defining the key terms related to corruption.

Finally, Joksimović expressed hope that the public would recognize the proactive approach of the Agency and ANEM in bringing closer to the citizens the terms related to corruption and the fight against it and keeping public better informed about these topics.

Prof. Čedomir Čupić, PhD, consultant on the project, addressed the issue of corruption and the fight against it nowadays in Serbia. He first pointed out the importance of this project because it was systemic, and as such it was important for raising citizens' awareness about what corruption means for their lives and how much it destroyed the lives of individuals as groups, as a great destructive force. He added that it was extremely important to define the key terms related to corruption in a way to bring them closer to citizens of different levels of education.

Systemic corruption is the most dangerous form of corruption, which means that all forms of corruption have inhabited societal systems and that it is difficult to cope with them, said prof. Čupić. There are four such strategic systems in a society: political, economic, social and the value system. When corruption penetrates the systems so deeply, a so-called corrupt way of life emerges, said Čupić and stressed that Serbia is now precisely in such a condition and that there will be no improvement until we face systemic corruption.

Education of citizens and media professionals who cover the fight against corruption are an important part of the complex strategy of the fight against corruption so that the reporting would be sensationalism-free, accurate and based only on material proof, said prof. Čupić.

He stressed that he did not believe that Serbia would manage to cope with systemic corruption until the law regulating origin of property is passed. He also underlined the importance of independent state bodies, above all the Anti-Corruption Agency and the State Audit Institution.

Prof. Čupić stated that without strict punishments for corruption there could be no efficient fight against it and that the penalties should be high, and the span between them small. "Strict punishments are not repression, but prevention", said prof. Čupić.

Zlatko Minić, consultant on the project, talked about chosen terms related to corruption which the series and the textual 'Glossary of Corruption' were based on. He explained that the chosen terms were not the ones which would be the first association on the corruption of an average citizen. Instead, among 20 chosen terms there are ones which reflect corruption in all systems, as well as those referring to mechanisms for prevention of corruption and dealing with it in all areas.

Minić said that the chosen terms could be classified in three categories. The first contains issues that citizens recognize well, those which oppress them and that have entered the public discourse and public life and have been present for long, such as 'accumulation of functions', 'conflict of interest', 'bribery', 'nepotism'. "These terms are the topics covered in the media, they are talked about, and the media are inquiring about them with the Anti-Corruption Agency. There have been a large number of sentences by misdemeanour courts for these deeds, and even more numerous misdemeanour charges filed", said Minić.

The second category of terms contains insufficiently known topics, which are extremely important nevertheless. Therefore, their educative potential and the explanation of their anti-corruption potential is important, i.e. what the authorities can do in the cases such as 'meaningful expenditure of public funds', 'transparency in the work of public authorities'.

Finally, a group of chosen terms opens issues which are very rarely heard in the public and in the media although they are extremely important, and thus prof. Čupić and Zlatko Minić, as consultants, wished to incite citizens, the media, authorities and organizations to insist on these terms, such as 'oversight and control of budget expenditures', 'accountability of public officials and institutions', introduction of the criminal offence of 'illicit enrichment', or the issue of 'institutional integrity', said Minić.

"The entire series should basically give an overview of the system of corruption and the fight against it, with both bad and good examples, as well as possible solutions; it should clarify some terms that politicians wore out by frequent use and turned them into blurred anti-corruption notions; it should encourage action, and we should show that the fight against corruption is not only arrests and announcements of arrests", said Minić and added: "If viewers and listeners of this series begin to recognize some corrupt behaviours which they have ignored so far, if they start to use some of the anti-corruption mechanisms, if they ask themselves what they can do and if they realize that they are a part of the system for the fight against corruption, I will consider this series a great success". 

Aleksandar Janković, executive producer of the series 'Illustrated Glossary of Corruption' (which has been filmed and produced for 10 months), said that, before working on the series, the production team had to acquaint itself with the phenomenon of corruption. Seminars organized in cooperation with the Anti-Corruption Agency were of great help towards this end.

The series was filmed in Belgrade and 16 other cities throughout Serbia, said Janković and explained that the production team filmed dozens of state and local public office holders, activists of nongovernmental organizations, activists in the fight against corruption in local communities, but also ordinary people, who are the most affected by the devastating power of corruption.

Janković considers this project good for two key reasons. First, because it was done mainly outside of Belgrade and big centres considering that in smaller cities, as he said, "the devastating power of corruption is incomparably more visible and tangible, everyday and to everyone". Second, the people who the production team interviewed, from the state-level public officials to ordinary people, are very much aware of the existence of corruption, but it is usually talked about as it was "a natural disaster, something that happened regardless of our will", said Janković and added that he hoped that the project would produce awareness at least in some people that corruption is created by all of us and that it is up to us to oppose it.

Jelena Veljković, one of the editors and authors of the series, who also trained local journalists who participated in the series' production, shared her impression that this project could achieve two goals.

The first goal is that the journalists learn as much as possible about corruptive processes so that they can recognize every form of corruption and understand what corruption is, considering that the media have a special and a very important role in recognizing corruption, exposing it and in the fight against it. 

The second goal would be that we impart all of it to the audience, citizens of Serbia, in an illustrative and a very clear way, so that they recognize corruption without doubt", said Veljković and shared her impression that in the situation of the systemic corruption in Serbia the citizens understood corruption as a usual pattern of behaviour and were not able to identify what corruption was and what it was not.

"I think that this series is very valuable because we tried, by means of illustrating the key terms related to corrupt behaviour, to make them come alive although they often sound incomprehensible and dry. These are the terms such as 'plan of integrity' or 'institutional integrity'. We often hear them, but we are not sure what they mean", said Jelena Veljković.

She said that the series also contained terms which were rarely used, such as 'pantouflage' or 'cronyism', and that the production team, together with the colleagues from the ANEM network's radio and TV stations, found an example for each of the terms, which helped them to explain fully each term and to show ways and mechanisms by which these forms of corruption could be fought.

Svetlana Kojanović, ANEM's journalist from Čačak, who participated in the production of the series, thinks that the greatest value of the project, along with its hot topic and the topic's importance, is the fact that ANEM included local media in the project. The reason is that at the local level it is rarely discussed how big a problem is corruption, and the media have no courage to grapple with it because they are suffocating under economic problems and some are under economic pressure from local authorities, waiting for funds from them to survive through hard times. Kojanović added that this series, as it would be broadcast by a large number of ANEM stations, would be an opportunity for journalists, especially young ones, to understand that they have to find courage to deal with corruption-related topics.

Kojanović stated that it is very difficult to cover corruption in local communities, "where everyone knows everyone else, where retribution is much larger and much scarier that in a big city such as Belgrade", where one needs real courage to start covering corruption. She thinks that the projects such as 'Illustrated Glossary of Corruption', implemented by the association which backs up journalists, give a chance to local media to start to deal with corruption-related topics. She stressed that the idea to enter local communities with this project was excellent and that it would be good that such projects continue to be financially supported, so that the corruption would be talked about as much as possible in local communities.

Sandra Mandić, the other editor and the author of the series, who also trained local journalists who participated in the series' production, thinks that the importance of the series is in the fact that the journalists cooperated, exchanged information and thoughts related to corruption, and many of them then continued to cover corruption for their newsrooms.

"When we talked to the citizens, conducting vox pops in many episodes, we noticed that the awareness of the negative effects of corruption has moved forward, which shows that media and nongovernmental organizations which deal with corruption have influence and effect after all", said Mandić and added that the citizens recognized the fact that they should be included more actively in the monitoring and control of public spending and that the problem may lies precisely in the fact that they have not been interested enough to contribute in this domain.

Mandić stated that the journalists working on the series had an excellent cooperation with the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, the Ombudsman, Transparency Serbia and many nongovernmental organizations in smaller cities throughout Serbia.

Ivana Petrović, ANEM journalist from Niš, who participated in the series' production, said that in Niš "there is every form of corruption in every institution, in every segment of the society". She said that she instantly had an example when the chosen key terms that the series is based on were explained during training of journalists within the project. She also stated that she found vox pops during filming of the series very interesting as it showed that the corruption became taken for granted and the people see it as a common thing.

According to Petrović, the series 'Illustrated Glossary of Corruption' reached its full importance during the election campaign. As she stated, if there had not been this project, she would not have recognized much of the corrupt behaviour happening in her own city in the pre-election time and she would not have reported about it. When the series will be broadcast, many people will know about it.

She stated that journalists in local communities, especially young ones, including in Niš, have little interest in doing their job seriously. Instead, they see journalism as making friendships with public office holders in local authorities and taking statements from politicians, while "the politicians in the city do not feel obliged to treat media with understanding and respect", she said and added that she believes that the series will help to encourage journalists so that they understand that corruption is a topic to be covered.

"I think that all of us - ANEM, production team and the journalists - did a very good job which will be useful to all of us", concluded Ivana Petrović. 


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ANEM's Project "Illustrated Glossary of Corruption" is financed by the European Union within the Civil Society Facility Programme.



The contents of this text are the sole responsibility of ANEM and can in no way be taken to reflect the views and stands of the European Union.

  • PHOTO: MC Belgrade

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