OCCRP Co-Founder Drew Sullivan Tells Parliamentarians at OSCE Event that Journalists Covering Corruption Need Stronger Laws and Protection

Published: 15 October 2020


In a web dialog hosted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), OCCRP Co-Founder Drew Sullivan presented recommendations that would ensure stronger transparency and accountability so investigative journalists can do their jobs exposing corruption without fear of reprisals.

Recommendations included:

  • Strong “ultimate beneficial owner (UBO)” laws that require companies to make public who owns a company and enforcement that verifies company ownership
  • Freedom of information laws that work; many requests are ignored and unfulfilled
  • Regulation of the “criminal services industry;” the corrupt banks, law firms, hedge funds, real estate firms, and others that enable organized crime and corruption
  • Laws that require more transparency in political party financing; foreign interests, organized crime, and others are undermining democracy
  • Freedom of information laws that protect the anonymity of journalists and whistleblowers to help keep them safe
  • Independent investigations of journalist murders; 97% of masterminds are never brought to justice
  • Anti-SLAPP legislation; short for “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” this legislation would prevent people from using the courts and threats of lawsuits to intimidate journalists and others.

Sullivan closed the session by explaining the damaging effects of not having laws that require and verify company ownership and that UBO laws are the first step in stopping money laundering. “In the last 20 or 30 years, we’ve seen this massive movement of money from the developing world to the developed world,” he told the lawmakers. “...so it’s fundamentally bad policy that we’ve put in place that’s allowing this to happen and it’s really depriving a lot of people...it’s just a bad system. Fixing it starts by identifying whose money it is and where that money is going.”

The parliamentary web dialogue, initiated by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative on Fighting Corruption Irene Charalambides (Cyprus), was entitled “Parliamentarians & Journalists: Partners Against Corruption.” Participation included dozens of members of parliament and the media. This was the first time journalists had been asked to participate in an OSCE PA dialogue about the importance a free independent press plays in uncovering corruption, underscoring investigative journalism’s increasing impact in fighting global corruption. The recommendations will be included in a final report sent to lawmakers.