Journalists and civil society actors from Southeast Asia and the Pacific made strong advocacy contributions at the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), a global biennial gathering billed as the world’s biggest gathering of predominately non-State actors fighting corruption, hosted in Vilnius, Lithuania on 18-21 June.

UNODC supported their participation, which enabled the sharing of insights and the showcasing of regional anti-corruption efforts. The participants also benefited from immersion in the global-anti-corruption dialogue, strengthening and expanding networks and knowledge to be utilised in their local countries and region.

Pushpan Murugiah, Executive Director of the C4 Centre in Malaysia, organised a key workshop on “Sovereignty for Sale,” delving into the role of scam compounds in Southeast Asia facilitated by corruption. Murugiah highlighted the transnational nature of corruption, stating, “We cannot continue to play catch up to criminals. Civil society organisations (CSOs) and journalists must work together to tackle corruption from a regional perspective as now corruption is a transnational nuisance.”

Boer Deng, Investigations Team Director with Radio Free Asia, underlined the importance of public awareness, saying, “Public awareness actually makes a huge difference to curbing corrupt scam centres and trafficking. If you know about it, you’re less likely to fall for it.”

Mech Dara, an independent journalist from Cambodia, called for empowerment of CSOs, proposed that “When normal diplomatic channels don’t get results, then we must empower CSOs and agencies to progress criminal charges against corrupt scam centres and traffickers.”

Rebecca Miller, Regional Coordinator for Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling, spoke on the convergence of organised crime and corruption, emphasising, “Corruption facilitates the convergence of organized crime such as human trafficking. Regional cooperation is key and now urgent.”

Carmela Fonbuena, Executive Director of the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), organised a workshop with UNODC on the role of journalists in combating corruption. She emphasised, “Independence and integrity of journalists in this challenging environment, characterised by tight squeeze in budgets and resources, and unprecedented mistrust in traditional media, is the cornerstone in our fight against corruption.”

Fonbuena also introduced the new network of investigative journalists in Southeast Asia, Journalists Against Corruption (JAC), aimed at bolstering regional efforts. She highlighted the challenges of access to information and data in the region, stressing the need for creative approaches to investigative journalism.

Georgina Kekea, President of the Media Association of Solomon Islands(MASI), introduced the Pacific Anti-Corruption Journalists Network (PACJN). She asserted, “Geopolitics is not the journalists’ fight. We must stay true to the needs of the citizens, be it access to water and education, or essential health services.”

Kekea also elaborated on the role of PACJN in promoting investigative journalism and anti-corruption reporting in the Pacific Islands. The network aims to tackle common corruption challenges such as misinformation, lack of resources, and infrastructure constraints, thereby strengthening the capacity of journalists in the region.

This dialogue session concluded with a strong call for regional cooperation and collective action. Key recommendations included enhancing public awareness, supporting journalism and CSOs, and improving access to information and data.