No. 5




The Media’s Treatment of Corruption

14 June 2002


RiTo No. 5, 2002

Corruption in the legal sense does not match the definition used by journalists and newspaper readers.

The meaning of corruption has a wider sense for the general public than it does in the interpretation of a law. The duty of the media in covering corruption is often seen in a one-sided manner – the fourth estate is endowed with the power of legislator, as well as judge and jury. In reality, the media’s role is trustworthy reporting, but not necessarily exposing incidents, gathering evidence, or handing down a verdict.

Media coverage of corruption means that the topic is in the sphere of interest of journalists, reporters and editors, and that the ultimate goal of their work is to shape public opinion. From a survey carried out in autumn 2000 among top Estonian reporters and directors of newspapers and media companies, it emerged that a problem in writing about corruption, a sensitive topic, is the closed and fraternal nature of Estonian society, old-boy networks and so on. Where prior personal connections between reporters and their subjects exist, stories are sloughed off on other colleagues. Media figures who were interviewed agreed unanimously that coverage of corruption in the Estonian media was weak due to owners’ lack of interest and money. Moreover, some investigative reporters lack professional training and do not offer the public much in their stories besides their self-styled reputation.

Full article in Estonian