The 15th International Congress of Investigative Journalism of Abraji (Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism), held for the first time online due to the covid-19 pandemic, broke a public record with 10,000 subscribers up to 14 September 2020. As subscriptions have been extended for 30 days, this number is likely to grow. The same should happen with the side events - the VII Research Seminar and the 2nd Data Sunday -, which until then had, respectively, 1.5 thousand and 2.4 thousand subscribers.
The congress had 103 speakers, 17 international from countries such as United States, Canada, France, United Kingdom, Argentina, Venezuela, Bolívia and Colômbia.
"We didn't know very well what to expect, as it was the first virtual congress we organized. The 10,000 subscribers are above the numbers we predicted, yes, but, above all, the positive reception of this new model exceeded our expectations", said the president of Abraji, Marcelo Träsel. "In addition to the acceptance of the new model, we noticed much more enthusiasm about the congress on social networks than in previous years".
Among the topics addressed at the event, the pandemic was ever-present. "Due to the online format, I believe. In several sessions, the topic came up in one way or another, even though at various times the focus of the discussion was different," said the president of Abraji.
Despite not having their work as widely recognized by society like health professionals during the coverage of the new coronavirus, journalists are at the forefront to bring information about the disease to the public, and many lost their lives. In addition, the economic crisis hit the newsrooms hard, causing layoffs and reduced wages. Not to mention the psychological impact of covering the pandemic. Not surprisingly, the topic was discussed at the 15th Congress, at the Mental Health of Journalists in Times of Pandemic panel with Meera Selva, director of the fellowship program of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, in the United Kingdom, and Guilherme Valadares, founder and director of the Papo de Homem [Men’s Chat].
Another topic discussed at the event was digital attacks on journalists, especially women. At the panel Virtual attacks against women journalists in Latin America, Argentine Sandra Chaher, president of the Asociación Civil de Comunicación para la Igualdad, said that the virtual environment reproduces the structural violence that exists in society against women. Colombian Lina Cuellar, director and co-founder of Fundación Sentiido, Bolivian Isabel Mercado, director of Página Siete, and Venezuelan Gabriela Buada, founder of Caleidoscopio Humano, participated in the debate.
Misinformation, polarization and the environment
In addition to a panel entirely dedicated to disinformation, with the presence of Craig Silverman, media editor of Buzzfeed Canada, the subject permeated several panels, such as the one that featured the member scientist of the Coronavirus Combat Committee of the Northeast Consortium, Miguel Nicolelis, and who discussed the challenges faced by scientific journalism during the covid-19. "Disinformation kills," he said, recalling that there is already an anti-vaccine movement against covid-19, even before it was produced.
Political polarization was another topic at the 15th Congress. American philosopher Jason Stanley, author of the book How Fascism Works - The politics of Us and Them, discussed the topic with Daniel Bramatti, from Estadão. According to Stanley, when treating opponents as enemies, populist leaders are betting on polarization to remain in power, threatening democracy. For Marcelo Träsel, there is a setback in Brazilian democracy. "Although we are not in an authoritarian regime, the Bolsonaro government is tightening this knot," said the president of Abraji.
The environment and its coverage by the press were also present in the discussions of the congress. Jonathan Watts, global environment editor for the British newspaper Guardian, said that humanity has failed on this issue, as has journalism. “Part of that failure is ours. Governments, companies and consumers were not convinced of the urgency of the situation”, he reflected.
Racism and behind the scenes reporting
With the presence of Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for the New York Times who specializes in covering racial issues, Flavia Lima, ombudsman for Folha de S. Paulo, and Yasmin Santos, a former reporter for the Piauí magazine, the Racism inside and outside the newsroom panel has touched a raw nerve. “When I attended this conference in 2018, I noticed five black journalists. Two were on a race panel. This is problematic in a country with a black population as large as that of Brazil. Abraji and the press need to take responsibility for this,” said Hannah-Jones.
In addition to the most urgent subjects of today, the congress brought panels that are already traditional, such as those that reveal the backstage of great articles. This was found to be the case when BBC unveiled a brutal crime in Africa, involving four victims, seven suspects and the government of Cameroon. From videos that circulated on the Internet, with controversial information, journalists decided to solve the crime using digital tools, such as Google Earth.
Another panel revealed the backstage of a story by Fantástico, whose mission was to find records that showed that police violence was intensifying and causing more victims in the peripheries of Brazil. During a speech at the congress, Antonio Junião (Ponte Jornalismo), Nancy Dutra (TV Globo), Sônia Bridi and other members of the Rede Globo weekly program team showed how the lack of data is a method of the State to hide police violence in Brazil.
VII Research Seminar and 2nd Data Sunday
Two side events complemented the 15th Abraji Congress. On September 10, 2020, the VII Research Seminar took place, with the discussion of academic research on investigative journalism. On September 13, 2020, for the second consecutive year, Abraji held Data Sunday, a day entirely dedicated to data journalism, with workshops for those who want to take their first steps in the area and also for those who already know the subject and want to progress.
Check here the complete coverage of the 15th Congress, prepared by students, recent graduates and journalists who are members of the OBORÉ Laboratory Writing of the Reporter of the Future.