Photo: Alice Vergueiro/Abraji
The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) promoted its 13th International Congress of Investigative Journalism on June 28, 29 and 30, in São Paulo, the largest gathering of journalists in Latin America. In all, there were 70 panels and 22 courses and workshops led by national and international journalists. Among the 154 speakers, nine came from abroad, from countries such as the United States, Venezuela and Peru. The congress received a total audience of 750 people this year.
For Daniel Bramatti, president of Abraji, the 2018 congress addressed "very important issues, such as diversity in newsrooms, the issue of journalist safety and a matter that is gaining importance in recent times: collaboration." The event, said Bramatti, "values our profession at a time when it is so attacked by people interested in making journalism lose importance in today’s scenario."
Tribute to Zuenir Ventura and tackling disinformation
On the opening day of the event, one of the highlights was the ceremony in honor of the journalist Zuenir Ventura, elected to seat number 32nd of the Brazilian Literature Academy. On receiving the tribute from the hands of Daniel Bramatti, the writer spent much of his speech talking about the phenomenon of fake news. "They are a contradiction in terms. To be news, they cannot be fake", he said, emphasizing that they are "a new name for the practice of rumors", now with the help of the internet as a tool for propagation.
US researcher Claire Wardle, director of the Information Disorder Project and of First Draft, announced the creation of the Projeto Comprova [Evidence Project], a gathering of 24 journalistic outlets to fight disinformation in Brazil in the run-up to the October elections. The initiative officially begins on August 6. "These are several newsrooms that compete with each other, but that have come together to do this", said the researcher during the panel "Disinformation and the Internet: Challenges for the Future".
The project was born as an initiative of First Draft, an organization linked to Harvard University. Created in 2015, the NGO conducts research and projects to fight misinformation on the internet. "The only solution to this problem is collaboration. Everyone has to come together and fight it”, Wardle said.
The lecture by American Jason Reifler, professor at the University of Exeter (UK), also addressed the fake news, yet only regarding the election that brought Donald Trump to power. He and two colleagues conducted a survey that identified 289 sites that spread fake news during the 2016 election. According to the survey, about 25 percent of Americans visited a fake news site during that period. Despite this, most who had access to this news did not change their vote. "Those who consume a lot of news about politics only choose to expose themselves to fake news because these correspond to their ideological position", he explained.
Lava Jato, journalism in exile and journalist's safety
On Friday (29), the panel "From Brazil to the world: Lava Jato's transnational coverage” was mediated by Abraji's Vice President, Guilherme Amado, from O Globo newspaper and JSK Stanford fellow and counted on two consortiums of investigative journalists from Latin America created for this purpose: Investiga Lava Jato and Lava Jato En Latinoamerica. According to panelists, the emergence of international consortia of journalists contributes to the development of investigations involving the Lava Jato operation. The Peruvian Romina Mella, IDL-Reporteros' investigative editor, and data journalist Milagros Salazar, founder and director of Convoca, set the panel.
Venezuelan editor Joseph Poliszuk, of the investigative portal Armando.info, spoke of his experience of journalism in exile. He and three other colleagues left the country after posting reports in which they revealed the misguided connections of a businessman to the government’s program to fight hunger. Sued by the businessman for defamation and with little chance of winning, they were forced to leave Venezuela.
On the theme of safety, American Jason Reich, the director of global safety at BuzzFeed, talked about how to deal with cyberbullying, a growing phenomenon in Brazil, especially against reporters of politics, sports, public safety and fact checking. "If you're a good journalist, you're naturally going to make some people angry, but despite these somber times, there are ways to protect yourself. One is to incorporate the 'bad guy' and try to find as much public information about you in an anonymous internet tab. It is through this reverse path that you will begin to protect yourself", he said.
Angelina Nunes, coordinator of the Tim Lopes Program, an Abraji project created to prevent violence against journalists, spoke about the first year of the program, launched under the inspiration of the Arizona Project, developed by Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) of the United States. The goal is to track investigations regarding the murder of journalists and communicators in Brazil and to create a collaborative newsroom to go on with the stories of the victims.
In the first coverage of the project in the country, Angelina said she had to take safety measures during the investigation of a radio broadcaster murder, Jefferson Pureza. On the trip to the city of Edealina (state of Goiás), Nunes worked only until 5 PM to avoid any risk. According to her, the project is important, different and ground-breaking in the country. "We want to raise awareness among outlet owners and directors, so they understand that we're minding something bigger than the next day's headline", she said.
Panel on collaborative journalism closed the event
In the diversity theme, Brazilian editors who manage their teams valuing different points of view taught why this improves the quality of journalism. There was also a panel on the project Women in Brazilian Journalism, Abraji's partnership with the organization Gender and Number, an initiative to fight harassment of women journalists by sources and within newsrooms. Also on this theme, New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones spoke about #MeToo and the coverage of the Black Lives Matter in the United States.
On the theme of entrepreneurship and innovation, there were courses for journalists wishing to launch journalistic business, whether or not for profit, and a design thinking workshop. Possibilities of business models for local journalism have also been explored, which is fundamental in the Brazilian context where there are 70 million people without access to printed publications or websites. The figures are from the Atlas da Notícia [Atlas of the News], a study made by the Brazilian organization Projor.
Marisa Kwiatkowski, who reported abuse cases in the US Olympic gymnastics team, attended the third day of Abraji's congress on Saturday (30). The reporter for the Indianapolis Star newspaper presented the investigation of sexual abuse of gymnasts, which revealed 368 cases and resulted in the conviction of Larry Nassar, a former Olympic team gymnastics doctor. The panel was mediated by sports journalist and Abraji director Abraji Gabriela Moreira, from ESPN.
Closing the congress, Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief of ProPublica, discussed collaboration in journalism. "Investing in collaborative initiatives between different outlets and journalists is a way of diversifying not only the production of news stories, but also of improving ascertainment”, he said. "The collaboration is a win-win for all involved." The editor of ProPublica ended his speech by quoting composer Tom Jobim: " It's impossible to be happy alone."