Archive for category Investigative journalism

Cover Up Unveiled

The final volume of the trilogy In the Name of the State was published on 19 April 2012. Entitled ‘Prikrivanje’, Cover-up, it deals with the abuse of political and legal power of leading Slovene politicians around the time when the country gained its independence. Today’s guest blog by Rafael Njotea of Journalismfund.eu

Journalists Matej Šurc and Blaž Zgaga spent more than three years investigating and analysing more than 6000 pages of declassified official documents on the trade of arms in Slovenia during the Yugoslav Wars. They obtained the documents through the Slovene Freedom of Information Act. Journalists from six other countries cooperated in cross-border investigation. The research was co-financed by a Journalismfund.eu research grant.

The findings of the investigation are chronicled in the trilogy In the Name of the State, of which the last volume has now been completed. The first volume, published in June 2011, focused on the sale of arms and ammunition from the former Yugoslav People’s Army’s warehouses, which were seized during a ten-day military conflict in Slovenia in 1991. It was called ‘Odprodaja’ or Sell. The second volume, ‘Preprodaja’ or Resell, appeared in October 2011 and dealt with the purchase of arms abroad and subsequent resale to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the UN arms embargo.

The third and final volume, ‘Prikrivanje’ or Cover-up, describes how the arms smugglers managed to keep their activities largely concealed for the last twenty years. It starts by bringing to light the conflicts between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior after the Brnik scandal, in which 460 tons of arms, designated for resale in Bosnia and Herzegovina, arrived to Slovenia only to be stored at Brnik airport for months due to problems with the intended resale. Afterwards, the book examines the three parliamentary inquiries on the arms trades that were initiated over the years and the intrigues and obstacles that politicians put up to thwart them. The last of these parliamentary inquiries was triggered by the biggest arms deal in the history of Slovenia – a 278 million EUR purchase of the Finnish armoured vehicles Patria that was concluded in 2006. The Patria case is under investigation in Finland, Austria and Slovenia. Two dozens of suspects are on trial for bribery and industrial espionage, one of them being the former and current Prime Minister of Slovenia, former chairperson of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2008.

With the publication of this third volume of the trilogy, the research project has reached its final stages as one of the most significant investigations in Slovene history. It uncovered some of the country’s hidden chapters had been kept under veil the past two decades.

Read about the previous books in the series and reactions to them here.

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War profiteers unveiled

More than 130.000 people were killed during Yugoslav wars in the 1990ies. On the other side millions dollars of war profits have been earned with sending thousands tons of weapons and ammunition to the battlefields.

Last week the second book of the trilogy In the Name of the State was launched in the Slovene capital Ljubljana. It is called Resell and documents how the UN embargo against weapon sales during the Yugoslav wars was broken. The authors found leads to countries like Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, Romania and Russia as export countries, logistic headquarters in the Austrian capital Vienna, financial transactions via a Hungarian bank and transfers via off-shore haven Panama. Also the United Kingdom sent military equipment to then Yugoslav republics and provided loans for arms purchases, as did Germany, the authors found based upon studies of thousands of declassified documents and cooperation with journalists in several countries. The access was obtained through the Slovene freedom of information act.

It is a widely accepted theory that Balkan nations are responsible for the bloody disintegration of the Yugoslav federation. But evidence presented in the books indicates that some European countries may have been actively involved in the wars with supplying arms and ammunition to the warring parties. The books describe in detail and based upon port reports, cables, receipts and various other official documents the routes of the weapons and the money.

More than a dozen of ships loaded with contraband arms secretly arrived to the Slovene port of Koper in 1991 and 1992, where they were unloaded and cargo was quickly forwarded to battlefields in Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina. Military and civil intelligence services appear to have been involved in the clandestine operations according to signed and stamped documents, cables and orders obtained by the team. Also Italian, Albanian and Russian Mafia seem to be linked to some actions.

Along with his colleague Matej Šurc, Slovene journalist Blaz Zgaga spent more than three years investigating and analysing thousands of declassified official documents, that were obtained through the Slovene Freedom of Information Act. Journalists from six other countries cooperated in cross-border investigation.
The work already has lead to the award of the special investigative journalism diploma by the CEI SEEMO Award to the Zgaga-Šurc team.

In the trilogy of books the team meticulously describes the routes of smuggling and money transfers [Link to journalismfund article] as found in the released documents. During the recent Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Kiev Zgaga provided further insights into research method and findings, many of which lead to other countries and invite to further research in those countries.

The first strategically important shipment arrived to Slovenia from Bulgaria in June 1991, only a week before the first military clashes in former Yugoslavia. The Danish vessel according to the information obtained appears to have been loaded with five thousand assault rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, and the most important, anti-aircraft and anti-armour missiles, worth 7,8 million German marks. The shipper according to the documents obtained was Bulgarian and the middlemen an Austrian company. Almost simultaneously a British company sent modern military radio stations with encryption capabilities to Slovenia in a deal worth five million pounds, the team of journalists found.

After this success a main arms dealer stepped forward in the summer of 1991. The Greek citizen appears to have used a company registered in Panama with offices at Vienna airport as one of the main channels for smuggling arms to Yugoslav fronts. Debit-credit notes of a bank account opened at a bank in Budapest reveal the company received more than eighty million dollars revenues from Slovene, Croatian and Bosnian customers, according to the authors of the book.

The authors obtained documents that further link the arms trade during the embargo to a Polish state owned company, including the code name of the contact person and the alleged amounts of the transfers that indicate a Polish port as starting point for ex-Soviet army ammunition supplies’ journey to the Adriatic Sea.

The tale of the documents continues to focus on shipments from a Ukrainian port. The declassified documents reveal that the first two shipments passed through the Slovene port of Koper. The ship made two journeys and sailed 96 containers with arms in October and November 1992. All were transported to Croatia by roads. Debit-credit notes confirmed that 60 million dollars were paid by Croatian customers for arms obtained through this channel, and that about 40 millions dollars has been transferred further to sellers of arms.

The last ship of eight was halted by the NATO fleet in Adriatic in 1994, then a trial in Italian city of Turin followed, but all were later acquitted at the court. The obtained documents show that the person, whom the Turin prosecutor assumed to be the leader of the group, sold hundreds of Russian anti-aircraft and anti-armour missiles worth 33,3 million dollars to Slovenia in 1991 and 1992. He offered even modern mobile anti-aircraft system SA-8 Gecko in January 1992, but this deal was cancelled. Several other Russian connections surfaced in the documents.

The first book in the trilogy was published by the Sanje publishing house in June 2011, the 2nd last week and the last will be published in the winter.

The book has been widely debated in Slovene media, where arms deals also surfaced on the political agenda involving the then prime minister as late as 2009.

A selection of the Slovene media picking up the story:
RTV SLO

Delo

Primorske

Dnevnik

Delo

RTV SLO

Slovenske Novice

Also EU-applicant neighbouring countries there was significant media coverage, including reports about new revelations in EU-candidate countries. Read more on the website of Journalismfund.eu.

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Cross-border story quoted widely

Two journalists, one story – but how to achieve impact? In the story about the Latvian Brides, cooperation of journalists from two countries led to research so thorough, that the story was quoted in various European countries.

Aleksandra Jolkina from Latvia and Jamie Smyth from Ireland have been researching the story of sham marriages in each their end of the EU. Latvian women were lured into marriages with non-EU males, in order to get them residence permits – possible under Irish and EU legislation. Some of the women experienced appalling abuse.

Last year they decided to cooperate. With the help of a research grant from Journalismfund.eu they could cover the necessary travelling and other costs, to do the research.

“Working together enabled both of us to identify contacts in each other countries that would have been difficult or impossible to source while working on our own,” Jamie Smyth said about the cooperation, when he published the common research for an Irish target group in the Irish Times, where he is a staff writer.

The first publication was done for an Irish target group in the Irish Times in October, the second publication was done in book format for a Latvian target group recently.

Publication in Ireland:
Irish Times: Irelands sham marriage scam, Trapped in a sham marriage, Couple go to High Court with sham marriage decision, Comment: Ireland must take action to stop sham marriages

Publication in Latvia:
Book: Misis Eiropa, Pismieta Misis Eiropa (e-book), Misis Eiropa (order)

Book launch and book reviews in Latvia:
Latvian News Agency LETA,Newspaper Latvijas Avize, TV5 (in Russian), Newspaper Diena

Quotations of the story in other countries

Austria: ORF 

Poland: Rzeczpospolita

United Kingdom: BBC – Uncovering the Baltic Brides Sham, BBC – Latvia calls on Ireland to tackle sham marriagesJournalism.co.uk

Germany: Süddeutsche Zeitung, Badische Zeitung, Eurasisches Magazin, Berliner Zeitung

Europe: EUobserver.com

Canada: CBC Radio

USA: Center for Investigative Reporting  

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€ 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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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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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1,1 million euro to journalists

Journalists with a good idea for an investigative story with a European angle can now apply for research grants from the European Union. 1,1 million Euro will be distributed in two rounds of applications. The first deadline is on January 15th 2011.

The EU offers research grants for investigative stories, which involve two or more EU countries. Journalists with a good idea for a European or a cross-border story must team up with a colleague from at least one other EU country, find ¼ of the funding for their project and then they can apply.

The independence of the money will be safeguarded by an external “Assistance Body”. It will appoint a jury, maintain a website, administrate the grants and make sure that the experience from the projects is gathered.

A jury of “5-7 independent, reputed experts in journalism, investigative journalism and/or edition in those fields” will decide the awarding of the grants, following predefined rules.

The first round of applications has to be sent to the Commission, while the Assistance body is selected in a call for public tender. However the envelopes with the applications will not be opened by the Commission itself but handed over to the jury via the Assistance body once it is established.

The 1,1 million Euro were granted by the European Parliament as a pilot project, which is now scheduled to run until late 2011.  Among the involved MEPs behind the initiative were German green Helga Trüpel, Danish liberal Anne E. Jensen and since his election last year Danish liberal Morten Løkkegaard.

Read more on Journalismfund.eu.

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While the ball is rolling Italy works on gagging-law

Blank front page as protest: “The gag-law denies citizens the right to be informed”.

Some weeks ago this blog had to show the blank front pages from major Estonian newspapers in protest against a law against protections of journalists’ sources. Today the Watchdog Blog has to show blank front pages again, this time from Italy. “It is necessary to halt that law which defends power’s privacy,” comments police protected mafia-reporter Roberto Saviano in La Repubblica.
The Watchdog Blog is happy that Italian journalist Leo Sisti, an experienced reporter and author covering the fight against corruption and terrorism, has been so kind to write an article about the situation for the Watchdog Blog.
Brigitte Alfter

The Gagging Law
By Leo Sisti, L’Espresso, Il Fatto Quotidiano

Readers of “La Repubblica” must have jumped casting a glance to the blank front page of the Italian daily newspaper out in the newsstands Friday June 11. In the center of the page they could read the following message reported on a yellow post it: “The gagging law denies citizens the right of being informed”. After turning the page they could realize how deep the protest was against a new bill approved the previous day by the Upper House sanctioning with jail journalists who publish transcripts of  documents or wiretaps stemming from criminal investigations before a case is heard by a judge.

Ezio Mauro, La Repubblica’s editor, explained his exceptional decision with harsh words: the gagging law, doggedly wanted by primeminister Silvio Berlusconi running a center right coalition, “is an authoritarian act of the government on the basic right of citizens -the right of being informed- tied to the journalists’ duties to inform”.

The bill, before coming into force, must be approved by the Chamber of Deputies (Lower House) and signed into law by the President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano. But with a law jeopardizing democracy and freedom of speech the protest immediately spread to other newspapers and media, as well as public opinion.

The Turin daily “La Stampa” reported a blank column in its front page on June 11, while Sky Italia, the encrypted TV channel owned by the Australian tycoon Rupert Murdoch, broadcast the news with a black banner protesting the gagging law. A strike of the Italian journalists is set on July 9.

La Repubblica’s editor Mauro went on to say that “if the law is approved by the Lower House, the Government will decide over the quantity and the quality of the ‘sensitive’ news to be printed by newspapers and therefore known by readers”.

There’s no doubt on what the “sensitive” news are: almost day after day Italian media publish reports on arrests executed against high ranking State officials and politicians in high places on bribery charges. And about Berlusconi pursuing his personal interest in halting leaked transcripts reporting his conversations with high ranking managers of RAI, the State owned broadcaster. According to media reports he repeatedly requested RAI’s general manager, to ban airing critical political talk shows. Moreover during sixteen years since Berlusconi entered the political arena, he promoted up to 40 laws, dubbed “ad personam” (personal laws) that can shield himself from prosecutions and trials.

Berlusconi’s goal appears to be to silence media preventing journalists from reporting information on criminal investigations based on arrest warrants given to attorneys and therefore considered of public knowledge. Until the end of the preliminary investigation it will be possible to publish only a summary of the news. Reporting quotes derived from arrest warrants will be forbidden, unless running risks of being jailed or paying a fine. A time limit of 75 days is set to the duration of eavesdropping, extensions being admitted only in special cases.  Authorization for eavesdropping will come no more from a single judge, but a from a three-judge panel. As a result of the publication of leaked documents publishers will be fined from 300.000 euros up to 450.000 euros. If a priest is investigated or arrested, the prosecutor will be obliged to inform priest’s bishop. If a bishop is investigated or arrested, the prosecutor will be obliged to inform the Vatican. Even reporting names of prosecutors will be banned.

Under the new procedure it will take time, or rather years, before a case is heard by judges. And of course the public will never be acquainted with investigations.

Justice minister Angelino Alfano defends his law saying it is intended to protect people not linked to investigations whose names are sometimes reported in the press. But it’s easy to argue that in this case insignificant parts of the transcripts must be classified and kept in special archives run by prosecutors.

Berlusconi’s critics point out the gagging law is similar to a scheme already worked out in the seventies by Licio Gelli, the founder of the outlawed P2 masons lodge, under the name of “Democratic Rebirth’s plan”. According to some commentators Gelli’s plan aimed at setting up an authoritarian government in politics taming magistrates and journalists. Among the 932 members of Gelli’s P2 there were excellent politicians, chiefs of secret services, generals of Carabinieri and Silvio Berlusconi. In 1978 the current prime minister, whose family owns the most important private Tv empire, was initiated into P2’s secret ritual with the card number 1816.

La Repubblica protest website

Hard debate quoted in Corriere della Sera

News and protest by the International Press Institute

Roberto Saviano, Italian journalist and author who lives under constant police protection because of his coverage of the mafia, warns against the new law in La Repubblica.

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Follow the subsidy-money

Do we really want to transfer million-euro subsidies to individual recipients in the agro-industry? The latest publication of who got what from the EU farmsubsidies proved that the number of subsidy-millionaires has risen significantly. And right now is the perfect time to talk about it, because right now the future of this money-transfer is being debated.

Each year tax-payers send about €55 billion of to the farming industry, to rural areas and to price-correcting measures for food prices. It is called the Common Agricultural Policy, and it is one of the core businesses of the EU. The reform of this policy has to be finalised before the new budget period decision 2013, so major steps are prepared right now.

Do we, journalists, support the idea of an informed public debate? If yes, we should try to contribute by giving information about this money to the public. And as European public debate goes, we should network amongst each other and then address each our target group.

The current farmsubsidy beneficiaries will – logically – try to keep getting money. New players may try to get hold of money for their purposes. Big landowners and agro-business unite to promote food security and the environment. The commissioner of the environments wants to “green” the policy. Green organisations argue for water protection, development organisations and liberalists against dumping of EU dairy products. And so on – a good auld political debate. Fine.

And even much more important to know, how the money is distributed now.

This week a team of journalists and computer programmers from many European countries met on the initiative of the team behind www.farmsubsidy.org. We ‘locked’ ourselves into a room in Brussels for almost two days. Loads of coffee, tea, sandwiches – and of course wireless internet. The common aim: To analyse the data to find stories for each our readers and viewers. And more importantly: to network in order to find the European or cross-border aspects of the material.

For a start we could present the annual list of top-recipients. Predictably dominated by sugar companies, who are still receiving large amounts because of the latest CAP reform on sugar.

We also have a preliminary list of farmsubsidy millionaires.

Then we have the usual list of anecdotes, including money to an accordion club in Sweden, a skating club in the Netherlands and a billiard club in Denmark. Did anyone mention farmsubsidies? For more details see the harvest-festival-press-release by the Farmsubsidy.org team of May 4th.

So in other words: Back to the old saying of English language journalists: Follow the money. After all: € 55 billion per year is worth journalistic coverage. And a public debate.

Articles:

April 26th, DPA/Spiegel, Germany, Weapon Industry receives farmsubsidies from the EU (full DPA text quoted by Greenpeace)

May 3rd, Euobserver, Brussels, UK delays publication of EU farm subsidy details till post-election

May 3rd, Maskinbladet, Denmark, Sugar barons reap farmsubsidies

May 4th, Vest.si, Slovenia, The list of 100 largest recipients of farm subsidies

May 4th, Guardian, Britain, EU sugar and dairy companies largest recipients of farm subsidies

May 4th, Landbrugsavisen, Denmark, Prince Joachim and Mærsk get EU subsidies

May 4th, Die Presse.com, Austria, 178 million for French sugar corporation

May 5th, Euobserver, Brussels, Bulgarian minister’s daughter, accordion club get EU farm aid

May 5th, Trud, Bulgaria, 1,5 million EU farmsubsidies to daughter of a former Deputy Minister

May 5th, 24 Casa, Bulgaria, Daughter of former deputy minister gets EU farmsubsidy

May 5th, Politiken, Denmark, Prince Joachim gets 1,9 million Danish Crowns from the EU

May 5th, N-TV, Germany, For dead Swedes and surf schools – strange farmsubsidies

May 5th, Bild.de, Germany, Bavaria gets most EU farmsubsidies

May 5th, Agrarheute.com, Germany/Britain Farmsubsidy legt Analyse der europäischen Zahlungsempfänger vor

May 5th, Farmers Guardian, Britain, Civil servants criticised for withholding CAP data

May 5th, Finfacts, Ireland, Number of EU Agricultural Policy mmillionaires raises by 20 % in 2009

May 5th, Guardian, Britain, Who received EU farm subsidies last year? Whitehall won’t say

May 5th, Financial Times, Britain, EU pays subsidies to sugar groups

May 5th, Euractiv.de, Germany, EU-Farm-money: Topincome, lacking transparency, corruption

May 5th, N24.de, Germany, Farmsubsidies for billiardclubs, footballplayers and the death

May 5th, Telegraph, Britain, Accordion players and ice skaters get EU farm subsidies

May 5th, Journalul.ro, Romania, Bizarre beneficiaries of EU agricultural funds

May 5th, Ervhervsbladet, Denmark, The Prince and Mærsk get million-crown subsidies

May 5th, Nordjyske, Denmark, Joachim and Mærsk get their share

May 6th, Týden, Czech Republic, Farmsubsidies to the daughter of the minister and ice skating

May 7th, Die Welt, Germany, Blessed are those who receive

May 7th, Eesti Ekspress, Estonia, EU bought for 85 million kruuda butter and skimmed milk

May 9th, Danish Radio P1/European Magazine, Who’s become a millionaire on EU farmsubsidies

May 9th, Agrar Hirek, Hungary, Hungary ranked first in transparency rating of NGO

May 10th, 24 hours, Bulgaria, More farmsubsidies – 1.6 million to the wife of the deputy minister

May 10th, Trud, Bulgaria, And the wife of deputy minister gets 1,6 million farmsubsidies

May 11th, Vest.si, Slovenia, Agricultural subsidies for the Red Cross Slovenia, the Ljubljana Archdiocese and Caritas

May 12th, Farmers Guardian, Britain, More farm subsidy millionaires than ever

May 12th, Farmers Weekly Interactive, Britain, RPA payments create 27 subsidy millionaires

May 13th, Trud, Bulgaria, Prosecutors investigating Peythevs daughter

May 13th, Trud, Bulgaria, Investigate the daughter of former deputy minister

May 14th, Time Magazine, USA, Even in Hard Times, E.U. Agricultural Subsidies Roll On

May 15th, Yorkshire Post, United Kingdom, Exclusive: £1,700 bureaucracy bill to get 1p subsidy cheque to farmers

May 19th, Vest.si, Slovenia, Analysis of EU farmsubsidies distributed in Slovenia

May 29th, Agencia Latino Americana de Informacion, Stiglitz’s lesson regarding the FTA with the European Union

May 21st, Capital Weekly, Bulgaria, Problems in agricultural programs and regulations – and morality

May 30th, Euro.cz, Czech Republic, Who eats an EU grant

June 1st, Mayo News, Ireland, Mayo receives €119m from CAP

June 17th, Guardian Comment, United Kingdom, CAP provides another bumper payout for landowners

July 5th, Guardian Editorial, Common agricultural policy: rotten but here to stay

Find links about Farmsubsidy.org in the news on Farmsubsidy-Delicious.

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Truly European journalism

Slave workers in Europe. Personal tragedies, evil masterminds, fear, violence  and threats to journalists. And European questions. All elements for a good story are there. Yet it took Adrian Mogos from Romania two years before he had finally published the story, he already had heard rumours about so long ago. The reason: There was no money for travelling, communication and the extra time that is necessary to do cross-border research.

Now at last the story is documented: Workers from Moldova are trafficked to the Czech Republic, where they work under slave like conditions, in this case picking asparagus. The organised crime structures behind appear to have caused  a trail of fear, which was what the team of journalists found whereever they looked.

Adrian Mogos decided to follow the story – across borders and against all obstacles – including the economic ones.  The research could finally be done in the course of 2009, because Mogos and his team got a research grant from the newly founded Journalismfund.eu, which aims at supporting exactly this type of cross-border research.

Mogos and his team are not the only journalists, who face such problems. Even editors who support investigative and research intensive stories are often not willing (or do not have the budget) to pay for trips abroad, translations, long-distance calls and so on. While European integration has been evolving over the past decades, media still very much stick to their national focus.

Focusing on a national target group is crucial because of our different media traditions. Our readers simply are used to have their stories presented in one way,  that’s what they like. So that’s what they should get.

Yet the research should not be limited to stay within the national frontiers. When stories cross borders – like traffickers and their victims do, and like the vegetables do, that have been picked by the slave workers – then journalists must cooperate with colleagues across borders or travel themselves. Oftentimes networking is necessary because of the knowledge of each national situation. But networking ultimately also gives added value to the editors and publishers. If a team of reporters gathers good evidence each in the field or country, they know best, each of the editors will get more information through the added research to present to the readers. If the story then is published in several countries  around the same time, we are heading towards truly European journalism.

Time to get inspired to develop it further! Journalismfund.eu tries to do that by making possible stories like the one about labour trafficking through research grants. The grants are distributed according to a set of criteria by an anonymous jury – in order to maintain full journalistic indepence, avoid interference and heighten credibility. The jury consists of highly estimated colleagues, whose identity will be disclosed after their term is over – and when there will be no more interest in trying to influence them one way or the other.

The funding so far has been granted by the freedom of speach foundation Fritt Ord in Norway and by the Media Programme of the Open Society Institute. The Network of European Foundations has kindly supported the idea. Journalismfund.eu is a project by the Belgian Pascal
Decroos Fond.

Read more about the slave workers as well as the journalists’ report on how it was done.

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No more excuses

Journalists sometimes say, that oh yes, it would be no problem to do this fantastic story if just…. they had a bit of extra time for the research or if just…. they had a bit of extra money to meet with another colleague to cooperate on the research or if just….

For those journalists, who have a good story with relevance in Europe or in several European countries there is now a bit of help!

Journalismfund.eu supports cross-border research carried out by journalists from several European countries. Jouranlismfund.eu gives individual research grants to small teams of journalists, who have a good story. A new call for applications is out today. This round € 20.000 are to be distributed.

Of course there are always two main questions: Where does the money come from, and what about editorial independence?

Well!

Journalismfund.eu is a project of the Belgian Pascal Decroos Fund, the FPD, which for ten years has given this type of research grants to journalists working on a story with relevance in Flanders. The FPD provides offices and other facilities.

The initial seed funding comes from the Norwegian freedom of speech foundation Fritt Ord

The current second level seed funding now comes from the Open Society Institute’s Media Program. Read about the funding for the research grants.

And the editorial independence?

Every time, money is granted to journalism, there must be a buffer to guarantee editorial independence. In this case we have chosen a combination of two elements. Journalists and investigative journalist organizations give their good reputation to Journalismfund.eu by joining the advisory board. In addition we have a model with an anonymous jury.

The jury consists of four persons. They were selected in the spring of 2009 among a long-list of highly respected media persons gathered by the advisory board. In the spring of 2011 the first two members will leave the board and their names will be published then.

Are there any criteria and rules? Yes, there are. Journalismfund.eu aims to fulfill the niche of covering stories that go across borders or have relevance in several European countries, se the rules for application and the assessment criteria, which the jury applies.

For other types of support for example on national level or outside the European Union and the European Economic Area have a look at our list of other journalism grants.

So now – no more excuses!

Get inspiration from our list of cross-border reporting projects and read more about alternative funding for journalism in our news section and in the archive.

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