Archive for December, 2010

€ 1.5 million postponed

The European Parliament allocated € 1,5 million to investigative journalism research grants in 2010 and 2011. However last week the money has been withdrawn following a long struggle about editorial independence and editorial confidentiality. But the MEPs behind the project vow to continue the work in 2011.
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EU-money to the mafia, the tobacco industry and multinationals?

Journalists have dug out the beneficiaries of EU-farmsubsidies for citizens to see them at Farmsubsidy.org.

Now a new team of journalists has dug out the recipients of the other large lump on the EU-budget: The regional funding. In a unique cooperation and 8 months research the new London Bureau for Investigative Journalism and the Financial Times have cooperated and followed the money – resulting in important stories.
The team behind has made accessible the underlying database for everyone to search.

Today the Watchdog Blog is happy to present a guest comment by Annamarie Cumiskey, senior journalist at the London Bureau and highly experienced in European affairs.

By Annamarie Cumiskey

It’s a myth that the Italian mafia puts a horses head in your bed if it doesn’t like you. They put a dead dogs’ head in front of your door instead.

And, I know this because while working with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, www.tbij.com in London, in collaboration with the Financial Times, I had chance to meet Colonnello Pierone, the man whose job it is to put mafia bosses behind bars in Southern Italy.

We met to talk about EU structural funds, as part of an eight month long investigation that is being rolled out this week, when the dead dogs’ head came up.

The dead dog was found in our new online database, not literally, but through one of the many ways the Italian mafia has found to get its dirty hands on European taxpayers money.

We brought together all the lists of beneficiaries of the ERDF and ESF under the current €347bn spending round – over 650,000 projects.
One project, the modernisation of the Salerno – Reggio Calabria highway in Southern Italy, has been allocated €400,000, and since then the local mafia have been putting dead dog heads in front of construction workers doors to frighten them into paying extortion money.

Some of the gang members are more sophisticated white-collar criminals, and they really have collared EU grant aid – €1.2bn in recent years according to a report by the Italian financial police.

Don’t worry they can always seek repentence for their sins at the EU grant aided Church of Madonna di Polsi nearby that also happens to be their spiritual home.

The Italian mafia makes it look so easy, and that’s the problem it is.
The Italian mafia, fortunately, is an extreme case of how EU funds are abused, but it shows how impotent the EU institutions are to stop this.  And, this will stay the same due to the inherent nature of the EU – 80% of its budget is spent at national level, and the EU can’t control what happens there.

Al Jazeera, BBC Radio 4 File-on-Four, BBC World Service and France 2 will also broadcast programmes based on our research.

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Uncut: Revolution Televised

In Moldova, an immediate neighbour of the EU, last year three young people died in protests against election fraud.

The election had to be repeated, but the violence remains a national memory. Now a journalistic project asks the Moldovan public to help analyse, what really happened. 16 hours of protests captured in 300 clips recorded by 13 different surveillance cameras, documenting the entire so-called “Twitter Revolution” in Moldova.

The project got technical support developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and works with a journalist research grant from Danish-Eastern-European Scoop.

The Watchdog Blog has been in touch with Stefan Candea from the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism. The journalist team behind the story asks those, who may have knowledge about the events, to help analyse the files. This is a task too big for individual journalists to analyse. Below I would like to quote from the website, where the surveillance clips are available. If you want to read more, you can go to the refering website of the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism.

Text from the website:
In April 2009, about 15,000 people went to the streets of Chisinau, Republic of Moldova. The protests started with a flashmob on April the 6th, and grew bigger the next day on April the 7th. International media called it the “Twitter Revolution” and communist rulers called it a “Romanian provocation”. The demonstrators themselves claimed that elections were rigged and demanded the resignation of the communist government or the recount of votes. Events soon escalated out of control.

President Vladimir Voronin and the communist regime reacted violently to the protests, suspending the constitution starting with that night. The results: at least three dead youth, almost one thousand young people illegally arrested and tortured, over one thousand days of arrests issued, a president and prime-minister threatening to shoot the protesters and ordering the sequestration of students in schools.

The government tried to control any information related to the riots, so while one journalist was placed under house arrest, eight other journalists were picked up from the street and kept captive for hours or days, tens of reporters were beaten, harassed, threatened, almost 30 foreign journalists expelled or denied access into the Republic of Moldova. Internet connections were blocked, phone conversations jammed.

More than a year and a half after, nobody knows the names of people responsible for the abuses committed during those days. Nobody knows how many of the crowd were protesters or how many were actually working for the Moldovan Government. The repetition of the elections brought the communist regime to an end. Nevertheless, only one police officer and three judges were brought to justice. Less then 50 victims sued the government. Many of the other hundreds of victims felt intimidated by police not to press charges, or don’t have evidence.

You can change that!

Here are the uncut 16 hours of a revolution. This is the CCTV footage from 7th of April and the night that followed, recorded by government surveillance cameras located on the buildings of the Government, the Parliament and the Presidency in downtown Chisinau. These are the relevant hours captured in 300 clips recorded by 13 surveillance cameras starting on April the 7 at 10 am and ending at 2 am next morning. Moldovan authorities never released these videos.

We ask Moldovans to identify people and situations that were not reported in the media and to post a detailed comment under the video you are screening. Agents provocateurs? Violent protesters? Please log in to leave your observations, especially ones that might allow victims to hold perpetuators accountable. International lobby groups, organizations, artists or whoever is interested in the raw material, download all the videos in complete, uncompressed form.

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