In Moldova, we can make investigative journalism great again. Here's how.
21 Feb 2017 by Olga Crivoliubic and Mariana Rata
Corruption offences often remain unexposed; investigative journalists often put themselves at high risk to shed light on these crimes.
That’s why, last year as UNDP in Moldova we partnered with the National Anticorruption Centre to organise a contest for the best journalistic investigations on corruption. In publicly recognising the strongest journalistic efforts, we aimed to bring further awareness to their work.
Read the testimony of Mariana Rata, a reputable investigative journalist who takes an in-depth look at the challenges faced by investigative journalism in Moldova.
If investigative journalism today exists in the Republic of Moldova at all, it exists only as ‘connected’ to the oxygen mask of external donors. Investigative journalism is an expensive product due to the amount of time and material resources it requires (including access to databases and public registries.) Indeed, no newspaper can afford an investigative journalist unless they are paid from the funds provided by external partners for different projects.
It’s something of a miracle, then, that even under such harsh conditions, hundreds of journalistic investigations are published annually in our country. Some of these pieces turn out to be very good indictments, which are then filed by prosecutors and sent directly to courts.
But most of the time, such journalistic investigations receive hardly any attention at all. That’s exactly what happened with last year’s winner of UNDP Moldova’s journalistic investigation prize. Originally ignored by the National Anticorruption Center, Prosecutor’s Office, and Security and Intelligence Service, it then went on to serve as a solid source of information for a criminal case initiated by the law-enforcement agencies from Germany.
Even when their investigations provide sufficient evidence to support any of their affirmations, investigative journalists from the Republic of Moldova often find themselves sued for their work. The trials are burdensome, and in the context of a troubled justice system, such proceedings can serve as intimidations. Such cases can discourage even the most fearless journalists to stop pursuing the truth.
How can we have stronger investigative press?
1. professional and honest journalists
2. ability to visualize information
3. access to high volume of data
4. solidarity among journalists
5. increased citizen and civil society engagement with journalistic work.
Journalists (especially investigative journalists) are frequently denied access to requested information, which makes their work especially challenging.
The difficulties don’t even end when the pieces are published. Most investigation are not sufficiently promoted. Inadequate press solidarity means many good journalistic investigations ‘die’ on the newspaper pages or on the blogs of the authors, ruining their chance of making any impact. If we want to provoke discussions at large, we need all kinds of press institutions – from TV to newspapers - to come together.
Another important ally is civil society. The support of both non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations is crucial if journalism is to stand strong against corruption. The voice of such coalitions is better heard in the offices of the authorities and those of the litigants.Indeed, the cooperation between investigative journalists and NGOs have yielded remarkable results in many states.
If we want our countries to have healthier dialogues and stronger futures, we need to begin by making sure investigative journalists can be heard.
Editor’s Note: As UNDP, we recently launched a Data Journalism Handbook, which you can download here. It is now available in English and Russian.