By William Jones, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Eighth Global Investigative Journalism Conference was held last week at the city’s PUC university, featuring a host of guest speakers that included American journalist Glenn Greenwald, the man responsible for bringing Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA to global attention.

Glenn Greenwald at the conferece, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Glenn Greenwald, investigative journalist at The Guardian, brought weight to the conference, photo courtesy of GIJN.

This was the first time that the hosts, The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), had opted to hold the event in the Southern Hemisphere, bringing together over 4,000 journalists from 100 different countries.The event is designed to promote and support journalist’s best practice, at the same time ensuring the freedom of information and transparency of documents for those in investigative practices.

Among the other key speakers were Catalina Botero, Freedom of Expression Rapporteur for the Organization of American States who was keen to stress the role that journalists play in the dissemination of information. “In the alleged democracies, the thermometer is free speech,” she declared, “And investigation journalism is the mercury.”

Brazil’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, Joaquim Barbosa, Pulitzer Prize winners Sarah Cohen of the New York Times and The Guardian’s David Leigh were also present, prompting Frank La Rue, United Nations Special Reporter to announce; “This is one of the most, if not the most, important meeting of investigative journalists in the world.”

This year’s forum of journalism’s leading thinkers incorporated not only the GIJN but also the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalists (ABRAJI) and the Latin American Conference of Investigative Journalism (COLPIN). The result was dubbed a ‘muckraking university’ where visitors could learn the skills of digging out and exposing misconduct.

“This year we will have three meetings in one. It will be the World Cup of investigative journalism,” said Marcelo Moreira, president of ABRAJI, in an interview before the weekend began.

David Leigh accepts his Lifetime Achievement Award, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
David Leigh accepts his Lifetime Achievement Award, photo courtesy of GIJN.

Among the disciplines at hand, workshops were held for visitors and aspiring investigative journalists to receive experience and gain knowledge of data visualization, mapping, tracking social media, statistics, network analysis, text mining, web scraping, and cleaning data.

The collaborative workshops had the objective of ensuring the ethical practices of socially conscious journalism, while at the same time training the next generation of investigative journalists.

The program included events such as a ‘hackathon’, promoted by the Mozilla Foundation, which, according to Moreira, was “a kind of marathon with young journalists and programmers to develop applications related to investigative journalism.”

The presence of Glenn Greenwald undoubtedly added a timely weight to the event, with the journalist announcing that there were still “complex, deep and shocking” documents to come out and that “four or five stories will soon be released soon.” Having previously said that the NSA is as much about journalism as terrorism, he used the occasion to question the U.S. policy of tapping the communications of Petrobras. “I don’t think that Petrobras houses pedophiles or terrorists, so if it wasn’t for economic reasons, what was it for? They are interested in Brazil’s minerals.”

David Leigh also received a GIJN Lifetime Achievement Award. The 67 year-old journalist who worked closely with Julian Assange told the conference: “Some things in investigatibe journalism don’t change. We fight the power, we fight the corporations… As I’ve got older I’ve cracked on doing the same thing because the battle is endless.”

Previous editions have been held in Copenhagen (2003), Amsterdam (2005), Toronto (2007), Lillehammer (2008), Geneva (2010) and Kiev (2011). Since the first event, GIJN has grown to the size of more than ninety organizations from forty different countries for a numerous news groups to conduct training and provide resources to like-minded people from investigative journalism. The conference in 2015 will be held in Lillehammer, Norway.


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