Criminals – including corrupt politicians and businessmen – are becoming increasingly digitally sophisticated. Organised crime, tax evasion, embezzlement, and political collusion are now global enterprises, operating across borders in order to slow down, and often evade, law enforcement.
Against this backdrop, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has pioneered a ground-breaking and highly collaborative new model of investigative journalism.
media organisations are now part of the ICIJ network
Via a resource centre, the ICIJ’s network, comprising 120 media organisations, invites journalists and data scientists to participate in co-ordinated investigations. Together, this international network can engage in deep, intensive investigative work and data analysis that would be far too burdensome for any one organisation to do well. Furthermore, each local media organisation can surface the stories that are most relevant to their audience. This means investigative news stories can be both global and local at the same time.
On April 3, 2016, the ICIJ published the findings of its Panama Papers investigation. This global collaboration involved over 370 journalists from more than 100 media organisations. Over a year in the making, it was published in 80 countries simultaneously, making front page news in many of those countries and forcing law enforcement to sit up and take note.
One of the most influential stories of the decade, the Panama Papers exposed money laundering, tax evasion, and sanction defiance through anonymous shell companies and secretive financial accounts. In total, 140 politicians were implicated – including 12 current or former world leaders – leading to a number of high-profile resignations. Authorities in more than 90 countries launched investigations based on the information published, and over $700 million was recouped in fines and back taxes. Meanwhile, spontaneous citizen protests erupted in Iceland, Malta, Pakistan, and the UK.
One of the most influential stories of the decade, the Panama Papers exposed money laundering, tax evasion, and sanction defiance through anonymous shell companies and secretive financial accounts.
The Panama Papers showed just how powerful the ICIJ model is. Luminate has granted the organisation $4.5 million to further build its capacity, scale its model, and recruit cutting-edge data analysis talent. ICIJ has already shown that its approach is replicable, with the 2017 publication of the “Paradise Papers” that implicated Apple, Nike, Queen Elizabeth II, and many members of the Trump Administration.
The ICIJ and its partners have proved that a relatively small group of journalists and data scientists can affect global change by applying a combination of old-fashioned reporting and the latest technology to vast amounts of information. We hope to see even greater impacts for justice, accountability, and transparency as they lead a new era for investigative journalism.
Headline photo credit: Hidefumi Nogami