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ICIJ: Cross-border investigative journalism - a remarkable agent of change

Why we invested: ICIJ

Mossack Fonseca, the name probably rings a bell. In April 2016, the Panamanian law firm made headlines after a giant and unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files exposed the firm’s inner workings in helping create offshore shell corporations. Wealthy athletes, government officials, and heads of state topped the firm’s client list. The leak, known as the Panama Papers, showed the ways wealthy and powerful individuals exploit tax regulations in different jurisdictions. Over 100 media outlets worldwide began publishing, in a coordinated approach, an investigation into the Panama Papers resulting in government and tax probes, and criminal investigations. Central to this was the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). ICIJ coordinated and led a team of more than 370 journalists from 76 news outlets  in analyzing, reporting, and monitoring stories around the leak and its impact. Five years later, the impact is still being felt. To date 24 countries have reported revenue recovery of $1.36 billion, with investigations still ongoing.

ICIJ’s most recent investigation revealed the role of global banks in industrial-scale money laundering. The FinCEN Files analyzed records between 1999 and 2017, showing that major banks moved more than $2 trillion in dirty money.

Established in 2017 as an independent organization, ICIJ is a global network of more than 260 investigative journalists in 100 countries who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories. They partner with more than 100 media organisations, from the world’s most renowned outlets, including the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Asahi Shimbun, to small, regional non-profit investigative centres. Drawing on their expertise and reach, ICIJ exposes the truth and holds the powerful accountable after ground-breaking and thorough investigations.

Luminate is pleased to announce a $1.5 million grant, over three years, to support ICIJ’s growth and independence. The grant will strengthen ICIJ’s editorial, technology, networking, revenue diversification and community engagement. The funds will also help ICIJ develop tech tools to protect members of its network against digital threats while boosting collaborative capabilities. Additionally, the resources will help launch a machine learning lab to accelerate data analysis of the large data sets used in various investigations. We previously provided support to ICIJ in 2016 to help the organisation spin off from the Center for Public Integrity and scale its model of collaborative, data-driven, cross-border investigative journalism.

We're committed to supporting investigative journalism as a tool to hold those in power to account resulting in far-reaching tangible impact. ICIJ has established itself as a formidable leader, with a formidable network, intellectual capabilities, and creativity to spur progressive and positive change. We are excited to see the impact of this grant. It looks to use the power of technology to move the needle on developing impactful investigations and strong editorial pieces.