Ukrainian Journalists Learn from Baltic Experience in Monitoring Political Finance and Investigating Corruption
Access to honest, transparent information is essential to building stronger democracies and allowing citizens to make well-informed electoral choices. On this World Press Freedom Day, it is worth noting how disinformation constitutes a significant global threat to democratic and electoral processes, making quality journalism more relevant than ever. The role of journalists in investigating political finance and corruption, in particular, is key to holding governments, candidates and political actors accountable.
As part of its efforts to ensure access to reliable information and promote high-quality journalism in Ukraine, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) organized a study trip to the Baltics for investigative journalists to gain hands-on experience in monitoring political finance and investigating cases of corruption.
During the study trip, the five winners of IFES’ political finance investigative reporting contest in Ukraine met with prominent journalists, civic activists and public officials from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, who shared their knowledge and research tools in investigating political corruption.
"I could not even imagine that I would get an opportunity to meet so many political finance experts. The study trip helped me to expand my horizons and provided an excellent opportunity to compare political finance regulations in Baltic countries and Ukraine. I made a number of conclusions, which would not have been possible without this experience." – Liubov Velychko, a journalist from online magazine Slovo i Dilo
The participants discussed international experience in regulating political finance and preventing political corruption as well as key achievements and challenges faced by investigative journalists in these Baltic countries. The study trip’s geographical scope was designed to provide opportunities to engage with stakeholders within multiple countries as well as to foster discussion on monitoring political finance in Ukraine.
"It was interesting to discover how the same problems related to political finance are solved in three different countries. During meetings, we had a chance to hear firsthand how election administration and anti-corruption authorities address these problems." – Yurii Horbach, a journalist from the Center for Journalistic Investigations: The Power of Truth
Other issues discussed during the study trip included effective oversight of campaign finance, cooperation between state and nonstate actors in promoting compliance with political finance rules, ethical and professional standards of media investigations, and access of journalists and the public to data necessary to uncover potential political corruption.
The 2019 presidential election in Ukraine has become the first national election held under the new campaign finance rules established by the 2015 Political Finance Reform Law, and provided investigative journalists with an opportunity to apply the information and knowledge they gained during the study trip.
“During the first round of the presidential election in Ukraine, our team investigated election law violations in Lviv region, focusing on voter bribery. This investigation, inter alia, outlines experience of the Baltic countries, including those countries where online voting is introduced, in identifying and combating such violations,” noted Maryana Sych, head and editor of the "VIP-investigation" project at the Pravda Tut TV station based in Lviv.
According to Sych, study trips for journalists help communicate best practices in regulating electoral and political finance procedures, providing journalists with clear guidance on how to address existing problems.
"It is important to organize such study trips as it gives a new perspective to journalists willing to cover elections. When you analyze the situation in Ukraine and compare it to the experience of other countries that faced similar problems earlier, you may find innovative solutions that can be effectively communicated and adapted to your national context.” – Maryana Sych
This initiative is part of IFES’ broader efforts to strengthen democratic progress in Ukraine through the support of the United States Agency for International Development, Global Affairs Canada and UK aid.