SEEMO organised a panel during the International Journalism Festival IFJ16 in Perugia, Italy, to reveal the extent of the problem. It took place on 10 April in a full conference room of the Palazzo Sorbello.
During the panel we learned that in some countries, like Romania, the anti-corruption authority is doing the investigations. But in other countries journalists have the most important role: it is them, instead of state authorities, who examine the business practices of oligarchs, find people on wanted lists, investigate questionable deals involving family members of politicians in power, compare reported salaries with the extravagant lifestyles of managers working in public companies and even investigate financial and other irregularities in churches.
Panama papers: is this journalism?
Our international speakers showed how reporters and civil society can work together on investigations. The role of the intelligence services, criminals and police in delivering information to journalists was also debated. In this context, the "Panama papers", the biggest data leak ever published, was discussed.
It certainly is a big story - but the question was: is this still journalism? And who makes the decision what will be published from documents like "Panama papers"? Are these documents available for all journalists, or do media and journalists receive only selected information? This discussion included also the question why in the first news about the leak, Western media promoted information connected to Russia and reported less about offshore companies from Western Europe and the USA, who also hide the tax havens of the powerful and wealthy.
Investigating at personal risk
Journalists are working on these issues closely with civil society organisations, national authorities and financial institutions, and also international anti-corruption groups. They do it in difficult conditions, and sometimes at great personal risk. Good investigative journalists may expose criminality and help bring criminals to justice, but they are not officers of the law.
Participants were: Aleksandra Bogdani, an investigative journalist and editor for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania, Milorad Ivanovic, editor in chief of the Serbian edition of Newsweek magazine, Sasa Lekovic, president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association and Cristian Niculescu, who works as a journalist and trainer of the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism.
In the beginning of the panel Senior Executive Officer at the Central European Initiative (CEI) Barbara Fabro, presented the annual CEI SEEMO Investigative Journalism Award. SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic as chairperson moderated the event.