The increasingly restrictive conditions for media around the world has only served to highlight the significance of investigative journalism networks and support for investigative journalism productions in the Middle East and North Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. The building of professional journalist networks has proven an important tool in strengthening the knowledge, practice of and support to investigative journalism within countries and for promoting cross-border cooperation.
The Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) network, co-founded by IMS, is now widely considered the leading organisation for investigative reporting in the region, providing a common platform for dialogue and support to journalists in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain and Tunisia. More than 1,200 journalists and nearly 100 media professionals have received investigative journalism-related training from ARIJ since its inception in 2005.
In 2014, ARIJ sought to mainstream investigative journalism in video production after having focused mainly on investigations for print media. As part of its new focus on accelerating production of compelling ARIJ investigations for television, YouTube and other platforms, ARIJ planned three multimedia masterclasses in 2014 to build a specialist group, from which 12 productions are expected to materialise in 2015. Major national and international media houses such as Al Jazeera, BBC, Al Arabiya and Vice have already commissioned productions from ARIJ.
For the Network for Iraqi Reporters for Investigative Journalism (NIRIJ), 2014 was a year dominated by stories on Islamic State and the issue of corruption in state administration. One investigation documented the then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s misuse of public money to corrupt voters in his election campaign. The story won an award at the annual ARIJ conference in Amman. NIRIJ also began collaboration with Baghdad University, which introduced investigative journalism training and finalised a curriculum for teaching investigative journalism in other educational institutions in Iraq.
The first ever Asia Investigative Journalism Conference was held in Manila in November 2014 with the participation of journalists from more than 25 countries. The region does not yet have its own investigative journalism network, which can help improve in-country and regional cooperation, but the conference, served as an important first step in connecting people. A working group was established to take on the task of building a regional Asia network for investigative journalists.
“It takes a community of journalists, not just one, to bring about change,” said Sheila Coronel, Professor and Founder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
As the space to practice independent and investigative journalism in Russia continued to shrink, the SCOOP Russia network for investigative journalists continued to support independent journalists that still produce and promote investigative stories and education under difficult circumstances. Throughout 2014, the SCOOP Russia network brought together journalists from the North Western region at venues such as the annual Investigative Journalism Conference in Kyiv and for intensive training in investigative journalism tools, access to information and Russian Media Law. The IMS-supported SCOOP Russia network, a partnership between the Danish and Swedish associations of investigative journalism, Regional Press Institute and Fojo Media Institute, has supported 21 investigations in 2014 covering everything from pollution to health issues.