Collaborative report sheds new light on Beirut port explosion

The Febrayer network of independent Arab media organisations sheds new light on the explosion at the Port of Beirut in 2020.

A report on the explosion at the Port of Beirut in 2020 shed new light on the incident and increased public pressure on the Lebanese government to take action. The report was published by Forensic Architecture, a London-based research agency investigating human rights violations, and the Febrayer Network, a Berlin-based network of independent Arab media organisations – and an IMS partner.

Forensic Architecture and the network established the F/FA investigative lab, which uses Forensic Architecture’s “methodologies and techniques for monitoring and documenting human rights violations in pursuit of accountability in the Arab world.”

Published in 2022, F/FA’s report exposed systemic issues that led to the explosion, contributing to the public’s understanding of the incident. The report provided valuable evidence for ongoing legal cases and investigations into the incident, holding the Lebanese government to account.

The investigation of the port explosion was one of three carried out by Forensic Architecture as part of a broader project consisting of three investigations. The first was carried out in 2020 and preceded the launch of the F/FA unit.

The value of cross-border networks

Investigative stories are essential in seeking institutional and policy reforms that could promote transparency, prevent corruption and change how government institutions perceive and address systemic issues in future. These investigations often rely on cross-border collaborations and networking to provide access to sources and uncover evidence.

The Febrayer Network has had a significant role in the F/FA investigative lab. First, it provides access to a vast network of local organisations, human rights activists and communities in the Arab region. This is crucial for F/FA’s work because it allows it to identify and investigate cases of human rights abuses, gather evidence and support victims and their families.

Second, it provides F/FA with the local knowledge and expertise necessary to conduct investigations in the region. In particular, the network’s members have a deep understanding of the cultural, social and political dynamics of the region and can provide F/FA with critical insights and information that are not easily accessible to outsiders. This helps F/FA to conduct its investigations more effectively and efficiently.

Third, the network plays a key role in advocating for the findings and recommendations of F/FA’s investigations. This work is critical to ensuring that the findings of the investigations are widely disseminated and acted upon by relevant authorities and organisations.

“For Febrayer, this collaboration is at the core of our journalistic and knowledge production practice,” says Yasmeen Daher, co-director of the Febrayer Network.

“We continuously search for new methods to unearth truths and expose the wider public to different narratives. The tools that 3D modeling and architectural simulation offer help us reveal necessary information.”

Local organisations – global collaborations

“Overall, the Febrayer network’s role in F/FA is critical to its success,” says Mamoun Alkawa, regional programme coordinator in IMS’ MENA department.

“The network provides F/FA with the necessary support, resources and local organisations that enable the unit to conduct its investigations more effectively and make a meaningful impact on human rights and social justice in the Arab region.”

The F/FA investigation also demonstrated the power of collaboration between organisations and across borders, and the importance of using technology and innovation in investigative work.

“By supporting the Febrayer Network, IMS is not only investing in local organisations but also recognising the importance of collaboration, knowledge sharing and collective action in creating lasting change,” says Alkawa.

Read the reports by the F/FA Investigation Lab on the Beirut port explosion here.

This article was published in IMS’ Annual Report 2022.