On the frontlines of Freedom of Expression: Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism


ARIJ, co-founded by IMS in 2005, is the first regional network in the Arab world focusing on promoting investigative journalism and cross-border cooperation between investigative journalists as a means of holding decision makers and power holders to account.

By supporting investigative journalists with grants to cover the costs of their investigations, coaching journalists and providing access to a lawyer to screen the investigative report for legal issues, the network has helped to bring about hundreds of revealing stories.

The organisation was established in close collaboration between IMS, a number of Arab media professionals, and the Danish Association for Investigative Journalism (FUJ).

ARIJ provides support to journalists in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Bahrain, Palestine, Yemen, and Tunisia.

In one investigation, Hanene Zbiss, a female Tunisian journalist, went undercover with a hidden camera for three weeks to reveal the way in which unregulated so-called Qur’anic kindergartens are advocating a very conservative form of religious education for children as young as three. Since the revolution, Tunisia has witnessed a proliferation of these “Quar’anic kindergartens”, which are established by religious associations and mostly operate outside the law.

The kindergartens are closed to the public and off limits to journalists in particular. Hanene Zbiss therefore had to go undercover and present herself as a teacher, after having gone through training for religious kindergartens. This method allowed her to see the means used to brainwash the children and how the State did not prevent it from taking place, even if they were aware of the illegal activities.

In these preschools, children were not allowed to draw faces with eyes and were forced to sit still for up to four hours reciting the Qur’an. Zbiss’ story prompted a public debate in Tunisia about the abuse of the educational system by religious groups to promote Islam. Read the full investigation here.

ARIJ is supported by International Media Support, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Open Society Foundations (OSF).

Since it was launched in 2005, more than 1000 investigative stories have been published in nine Arab countries by large mainstream media outlets. Stories have exposed corruption, exploitation of disabled children, fraud among doctors, environmental scandals, and impunity inside the military.

Starting from 2014, ARIJ has established a department for TV and multimedia which trains journalists and produces content for a variety of large media outlets in the region and which has been approached by BBC, Al Jazeera, Vice, The Guardian, and other international media outlets.