Alexander Lebedev
Newspaper tycoon Alexander Lebedev said he wants to invest in ways to end corruption on a global scale through international journalism and transparency, in his keynote address at the Society of Editors conference last night.

The owner of the Independent and the Evening Standard said newspapers provide a "defence against tyranny, corruption, injustice and, at times, can and should be a source of light".

He praised the British press for its investigations into those in power, but added that he wanted to see greater openness and access to information in his native Russia. Last week, reported that two journalists in the Moscow area had been attacked within a few days of one another.

"I want to invest further in ways to stop corruption on a global scale," Lebedev said. "The millions of bank accounts held by shady people in sunny places are not the right way for our countries to run their economies. We need transparency and for the international community of journalists to be able to work together, to report on the billions of dollars that are hidden and often stolen."

"The whole world was astonished and full of admiration for the way British newspapers held to account your MPs for their corrupt behaviour over expenses," he added. "This was an example of journalists demanding the right to know how public figures are using public money. They sought basic facts under the Freedom of Information Act and then used them to deadly effect to expose the bloated corruption and lack of moral bearings that politicians had when they spent tax payers money on themselves.

"In Russia, I would welcome such openness and access to information: it is what journalists do best: seeking to expose things that are wrong. If there is a way to help newspapers in these difficult times, when some are closing and many are finding it difficult to survive, I pledge that journalism and the basic freedoms that it brings will continue to have my support."

During his address he also said it was 'essential' for journalists to retain the power and for media owners like himself to remain at arm's length from the decisions made by editors.

"Because journalism is a fundamental structure on which democracy and freedom of the individual is built, it is essential that the power of the media is not tied too closely to any single individual. In fact, I have made sure I have very limited influence on my papers in the UK or Russia."

"I do not want to interfere," he added. "I want facts and arguments to be freed from control. I knew I did not, and do not want, to live in a country with the same restrictions and conditions that I had experienced as a young man."

Photo: Barrie Marshall

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