WELCOME TO THE ROLES MEDIA PLAY IN TAX ADVOCACY
OpenTax Initiative (OTI) is a platform of mainly journalists, campaigners and academics in Sierra Leone that calls for open, fair, just and accountable tax system. We are particularly focused on tax education and awareness raising through advocacy and investigative journalism.
Motto: “Your Tax, Our Task".
It was founded by Tanu Jalloh, a journalist and campaigner in Sierra Leone who says the project idea is inspired by a 2015 illicit financial flow training held at the City University in London and organised by the Tax Justice Network and the Centre for Investigative Journalism for journalists, academics and civil society members from across the world.
OTI-SL draws its membership from journalists, academics and civil society groups and seeks to advocate for openness and political accountability in tax administration and to call for policy reforms.
It currently works closely with most advocacy efforts related to or are geared towards promoting open, fair and accountable tax systems in Sierra Leone through media reports and campaigns. It mainly uses Advocacy Journalism to undertake in-depth investigations, using academic reports, credible survey findings, governments communication, civil society and other reports generated by local and international organisations that advocate for and work around good governance, open administration, tax and policy reforms, human rights, poverty eradication, social justice, wealth creation, equal opportunities, extractives sector and natural resource governance, banking secrecy, fair trade policies, community empowerment.
We are particularly inspired by the fact that, more than ever before, there is need for effectively strategic media-led campaigns in Sierra Leone, a small country in West Africa with huge natural resource reserve but one of the poorest in the world. We therefore believe that the social, political and economic benefits of such a cause will first come in the form of improved tax education and heightened awareness around tax justice. For the first time we hope to make the public know that not only the poor citizens but even tax collectors and the government stand to benefit from open and accountable tax systems.
OTI investigates tax related issues and reports their findings and analyses on a news website for the purpose of increased awareness and sustained education around open, transparent and accountable tax systems in Sierra Leone. To achieve this it will work closely and partner with other civil society, human rights groups and related activists to bring about the following:
1. Compliance to and conformity in universally tolerated standards that govern tax administration for economic growth and citizens’ empowerment
2. Promote information exchange systems for ease of domestic reference to global standards
3. Highlight and raise awareness around scenarios of harmful tax competitions
4. Encourage common reporting standards and ensure country compliance
5. Minimise tax cheating, evasion and avoidance through effective information gathering and dissemination
6. Promote extant and highlight recent guidelines relating to the alms length principles as propagated by the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that promotes policies to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.
Aims & Objectives
1. Promote open, transparent and accountable tax systems through investigative reporting in Sierra Leone
2. Increase tax education among citizens and engender constructive debates around fair tax systems that benefit the economy and its people
3. Encourage accurate reporting by the media on sensitive tax issues
4. Increase interest in financial journalism, niche reporting generally and on tax administration in particular
5. Create a core or journalists specialised in investigating illicit financial flows, money laundering, sustainable public finances and corruption
6. Form a lose network of journalists/civil society groups that advocate for openness in tax administration and related economic benefits. The symbiosis will see the two groups depend on each other for the same goal.
Project Justification: Benefits & Beneficiaries
The opportunities that can come out of such a project are many and are very important too depending, of course, on the objects of the initiatives, the goodwill, the support and political will of possible sponsors.
The biggest beneficiaries are the citizens of Sierra Leone, the government, the media and civil society groups. As it is right now, I am probably the first and only journalist to have been trained in investigating illicit finance, tax heavens, money laundering and corruption in one of the best such environments in the world and by some of the world’s best practitioners.
It is my wish that we replicate such training in Sierra Leone, increase the number of journalists that understands and communicates the issues well while heightening awareness around tax administration generally. Before now I am not aware of any journalist in the country that could comfortably report on such complex global public interest issues. There is a complicated web of international interventions that determine an affect economic growth in developing countries like Sierra Leone. We can’t explain them without key references to media advocacy on tax education that can impact on domestic knowledge and inform policy objectives. A capable and credible media platform is required to deliver on this and OpenTax Initiative is just about the right beginning to open, transparent and accountable leadership in sustainable tax administration.
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Acting Executive Director