Bloggers against Corruption – That seems fairly straight to the point as far as website titles go.
It is the latest civil society platform for bloggers to bring to the attention of others, corruption great and small – be it local, regional or national in Ukraine.
The platform has been created by the Institute of Mass Information in partnership with Freedom House and is designed, one has to presume, to fill in the gaps that the local “traditional media” miss when it comes to public awareness of corruption in their area, or to give a larger readership to those that don’t miss it.
Not that corruption is overlooked by Ukrainian local media, bloggers or local on-line forums – it isn’t. In particular, both forums and bloggers are indeed quite feisty and blunt when talking about corruption in their localities and nationally. - But there is a need for a high profile platform dedicated only to corruption with content generated by way of “citizen reporting”/blogging.
Other sites exist that do cover corruption in and amongst what they publish – Maidan.org for example, occasionally touch on the subject. (That said, I have issues with Maidan, as on several occasions they have used what I have written without even bothering to notify me, let alone asking me, despite what I write obviously being copyright. If it was not for readers here who also read Maiden sending me links to my words on their website I would never have known.)
There are however “issues” when it comes to such a platform, particularly when writing about corruption and those involved in it. Naturally there needs to be far more than hearsay evidence, spurious claims and rumour – lest we enter the realms of libel and defamation.
Now a clever word-smith can make subtle inferences and literary suggestions to a reader without crossing the line of libel when direct first person evidence, documents, quotations or media footage is absent. Anything more than subtle inference however would create legal issues in the absence of hard facts.
The Ukrainian Internet is a truly free realm that is in no way politically policed or censored when it comes the to content of forums or blogs. Thus tremendous care must be used when citing from other sources that does not come first person from the author – if the reader gives the author any legitimacy and credibility to accept their first person accounts at all. The Ukrainian media is not exactly always a bastion of professionalism either.
So this brings us to matters of “probability” when it comes to content that is based purely on inference and suggestion without first person experience or properly cited evidence.
Peer review is a very subjective issue even amongst the scientific community where little care can given by those who review if something is “probable”.
To quote Richard Horton of the British medical journal “The Lancet” – “The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than a crude means of discovering the acceptability – not validity – of a new finding. Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish and frequently wrong.”
And if that is the opinion of the editor of Britain’s foremost medical journal, the content of any blog relating to corruption needs to have the bar set extremely high – because “probable” does not mean it is “factual ” – libel and defamation await in the gap between the two. In short peer review or acceptance that something was said or done in all probability, rather than fact and validity over claims of corruption, is not a necessarily good foundation for a new civil platform.
The concept and necessity of this platform are undoubtedly right and required. How high the bar for content and contribution is set and maintained, remains to be seen – As does the societal reach this platform will eventually have.
Something to watch with interest as it develops.