Investigative Journalists End Conference in South Africa

Partial view of journalists at the conference.

By Joaquin Sendolo from Johannesburg, South Africa

Amid reports of corruption, repressive governance and human rights abuses around the world, the manager of Global Investigative Journalism (GIJ), David Kaplan, says the situation can change to make the world a better place if journalists collaborate to uncover these vices through their reports.

Kaplan spoke on November 16 at the 10th Global Investigative Journalism Conference in conjunction with the African Investigative Journalism Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa at the University of the Witwatersrand, or more popularly, Wits University.

His call for collaboration between journalists across the world stems from the fact that governments in almost every country find pleasure in keeping information on corruption secret because they engage in corruption and other human rights abuses, which Kaplan noted that if journalists become “Accountability watchdogs” they will hold public officials and others accountable, which could change the dynamics.

It may be recalled that in 2015, there was a big leak by the International Consortium of Journalists, “The Panama Papers,” that unveiled secret financial investments of some world leaders and business gurus. There was also a recent leak, “Paradise Papers,” that uncovered confidential electronic documents relating to offshore investments.

These instances, according to Kaplan, were the result of the role of investigative journalists, and that the only way to tackle the situation is for journalists to be more proactive and investigate them in order to build societies of peace and equality where human rights will be respected.

While investigating these practices are significant and journalists have a cardinal role to play, Kaplan said said investigations have led repressive governments and corrupt investors to become uneasy because of reports about their activities. Sadly, he said, these reports have led to the deaths of journalists around the world, and therefore they should collaborate in sharing information and speak out about the killing and incarceration of journalists in troubled areas.

In 2016 the Committee to Protect Journalists recorded that 48 journalists were killed in their various countries. In Iraq, 34 journalists were killed in 2017. Afghanistan and Syria are recorded to have the highest number of deaths of journalists.

The GIJ manager indicated that there is a need to have an independent and free media, but repressive leaders are using power to oppress journalists.

“If things must be done well in your countries, you have to hold people accountable. You cannot have a country where fraud and other malpractices are without accountability,” Kaplan noted.

The 10th Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Johannesburg is the first to be held on the African continent since it started in 2003 and brought together about 1,200 journalists from 130 countries. During the conference, delegates attended lecture sessions and symposiums on various topics of interest to them. Among topics discussed were: Global Health Issues, Reporting under Repressive Regime, Ethics for Investigators, Investigative Journalism in Africa, Undercover Reporting, among others.

Speakers were selected on the basis of their experience in reporting on the issues being discussed. Among them was Nigerian journalist Rosemary Nwaebuni, who published a baby-selling cartel story in her country under the headline, “Baby Farming in Nigeria.”

The conference was climaxed by a ceremony where the Global Shining Light Award with the prize of US$2,000 awarded to individuals and teams who performed exceptionally well in reporting corruption and human rights abuses. The African Investigative Journalism Conference also awarded the Fact Checking Award to four African journalists, with a Senegalese journalist named ‘Best Fact Checker.’


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