Journalism’s voice needed for society

By Nourhan Mohamed Elsebahy

Corruption is a global concern, and independent journalism has an important role to play in exposing the problem, argued an editor from one of Britain’s leading newspapers.

David Leigh, investigative editor at The Guardian, told an audience at the Oriental Hall on AUC’s downtown campus that though independent journalists constitute a small voice in society, they can be very loud if need be.

Without journalism’s voice, Leigh said, it is not possible for society to correct itself. A number of challenges face the media, though.

In the global economy, Leigh said, corruption is traveling through all industries, from country to country.

“The thing that is vital to develop is to go to the next level in exposing the kind of across the board corruption,” Leigh said.

Also affecting journalism is the financial beating the print industry has taken, Leigh noted. Resources for reporters are scarce, as newspapers cut staffs and see revenue and readership drop as advertising migrates to online.

A traditional problem, Leigh said, is that journalists are not police. They don’t have the power to stop things, just to alert the public to something wrong.

It is important for the journalist in Egypt to connect with each other to investigate stories that, because of government restrictions, are dangerous or difficult to work on, Leigh said.

But even in countries where journalists are relatively free to practice, corruption abounds, including the United Kingdom, Leigh added.

Those incidents in recent years have hurt the UK’s image in the world, Leigh said, particularly taking issue with the administration of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who left office dogged by a scandal that exchanged honors in return for political contributions.

Some members in the audience, though, questioned the practicality of Leigh’s advice. An Egyptian journalist asked how he could reveal corruption in a country that is confined by rules and penalties with no freedom.

Leigh saluted the efforts of the Mohamed Hassanein Heikal Foundation for trying to promote the voice of independent journalism, and to non-profit groups that have formed to also promote global journalism.

“I hope that workshops like this can become part of a globalized practice of investigative journalism, that are going to make things a little bit better,” he said. 

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