Investigative reporters in twenty countries came together to ask their elected representatives to fully disclose their sources of income and their tax payments. Reporters of the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo said they will first ask 57 state MPs to disclose their tax returns.
“It is extremely important for the public to learn where politicians made their money and whether they paid taxes on those sums. They are elected by taxpayers who pay them and have a right to know whether their elected representatives respect the laws that they themselves have enacted,” said CIN’s deputy editor Mirjana Popović.
In the first phase of the project, the journalists used a web-platform to simultaneously send emails to around 7,000 politicians in 20 countries. The public will be able to see emails sent to politicians and their replies. The organizers hope that the results will draw other countries to take part. The campaign is coordinated by Finance Uncovered, a London-based media organization with focus on corruption, tax abuse and money laundering.
The idea for the project was championed by a Pakistani journalist Umar Cheema who five years ago asked 446 politicians in his country to disclose these records to the public. Only two complied, but Cheema did not give up and he tracked down the tax numbers of others via the election commission. With the help of whistleblowers who helped him track down the records, Cheema uncovered that around 70 percent of Pakistani MPs did not pay taxes, including the president of the state and 34 ministers. Thanks to his investigation, today every politician in Pakistan makes his or her tax data public.
“The journalist’s duty is to remind politicians that they are accountable to the public. Financial integrity of politicians is very important – without it they defend only the interests of the rich. This campaign will return to them what they have lost – the citizens’ trust “, said Cheema.
Countries whose investigative reporters are sending requests to their politicians to disclose their tax returns are Argentina, Armenia, Bosnia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Hungary, India, Kenya, Egypt, Guatemala, Indonesia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Venezuela, Uganda, Russia, the United Kingdom and Ukraine.