Connecting the dots

A Guide to Documents & Databases for Investigative Journalists

The Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR) has several online publications dedicated to improving in-depth reporting on the continent. Abdullah Vawda, the Executive Director of FAIR, provides a context for one of these teaching aids.

Investigative journalism distinguishes itself from regular journalism by its depth and by a rigorous research process that never merely describes issues or events, but seeks to better serve the public by getting answers to the key questions of ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ For this reason, its subject matter often involves crime, political corruption or corporate wrongdoing.

Thus, investigative journalism can make a vital contribution to a country’s governance by keeping corporations and governments accountable. As an association of African investigative journalists, FAIR’s mission is to improve investigative reporting and facilitate publication of social justice issues by media in Africa.

Craft Image 19.11.14This guide follows a regional conference hosted by FAIR in Nairobi (Kenya) where more than 40 journalists, editors and media representatives discussed issues around War on Terror in East Africa: security, elections and transparency. The programme also combined regional case study presentations with technical skills training.

Ron Nixon (New York Times and founder of the Ujima project) provided insight on ‘how to follow government spending through public information’. His session demonstrated there is a lot of data about African state spending freely available on the internet, such as US department databases, service contracts, legal documents and US aid agency websites.  Although termed ‘classified’ by some Ministries, data on government programmes can be obtained via the US Freedom of Information Act, for example.

The selection of websites and documents presented by Ron Nixon at the Nairobi workshop, and also contained in this guide, is meant to enable investigative journalists to dig deeper using various tools and sources.

The ultimate objective is to show how data from external sources can be used by African journalists to expose forms of secret lobbying and foreign aid that do not help development.

FAIR is grateful to Ron Nixon for authoring “Connecting the dots: A Global Guide to Documents and Databases for African Investigative Journalists”.

The production and distribution of this publication was made possible under the SIDA funded African Investigative Journalism Grants Fund managed by FAIR.

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