Corruption in the Public Eye: From Transparency to Publicity

Corruption in the Public Eye: From Transparency to Publicity

Elitza Katzarova (University of Trento, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8614-4.ch087
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Abstract

What role is there for publicity in the global anti-corruption debate? This chapter introduces the concepts of “transparency” and “publicity” as analytical tools that account for differentiated channels through which the availability of information can induce social change. Two case studies provide insights into the role of traditional media in comparison to new social media. The first case analyzes the role of Western news coverage during the negotiations of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in the mid-1990s and the threat of publicity as a negotiation strategy. The second case investigates the role of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in the success of the anti-corruption strike carried out by Indian social activist Anna Hazare in 2011. By introducing and further applying the conceptual toolkit of “transparency” and “publicity” to both cases, this chapter argues that transparency requires publicity or in the case of the OECD negotiations—the threat of publicity—in order for the anti-corruption campaign to be successful. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the ramifications for transparency and publicity as tools for social change.
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From Transparency To Publicity, And Back?

Transparency is a multi-faceted concept, which comes in weaker and stronger varieties. More broadly transparency can be defined as ‘increased flow of timely and reliable economic, social, and political information’ available to the plurality of stakeholders (Kaufman & Vishwanath, 2001, p.42). Public transparency refers to the provision of public access to the dealings and structure of a given institution. This could be a governmental body, a transnational corporation, a public school, or a private hospital (Heald, 2006). Another side of the definition of transparency has to do with evaluating performance and concerns ‘the release of information by institutions that is relevant to evaluating those institutions’ (Florini, 1999, p.5). This chapter stresses the passivity of the availability of information in both weaker and stronger definitions of transparency and delimitates policies of transparency as potentially positive, yet passive in nature, with publicity being the ‘activating’ agent for transparency reforms.

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