ORGANISATION OVERVIEW: The Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR) is a pan-African network of investigative journalists whose focus is on increasing the quality and quantity of journalism output in the public interest throughout Africa. FAIR defines investigative journalism as a watchdog for the public interest to hold powers and others guilty to be accountable.
FAIR was established in May 2003 and strives towards increasing the quantity and quality of published investigative journalism stories amongst African audiences. FAIR professional members include more than 130 investigative journalists from 39 countries in Africa.
FAIR offers investigative journalists help with access to information and databases; support to overcome obstacles such as lack of editorial support and pressure from authorities; and networking support to overcome geographical and other limitations. FAIR’s website, www.fairreporters.org is an interactive hub for investigative journalists to access news, opportunities, resources and case studies.
FAIR, as the only pan-African association of professional journalists, trainers and editors, led by a Board of journalists from African countries spanning all regions of the continent, is adequately placed to address investigative issues amongst African journalists. FAIR members are constantly ‘digging up’ information about social injustices in their regions.
FAIR is a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO: 930016519) registered in South Africa. The FAIR Constitution explains further: “The Forum shall be a juristic person with perpetual succession capable of acquiring and disposing of rights (including the right to moveable and immovable property), of incurring obligations, of entering into legal transactions and of suing and being sued in its own name. The Forum shall be a non-profit entity in that it is not being formed in order to personally enrich any of its members.”
- AGM (Annual General Meeting)
- Board members (elected annually)
- Executive Committee (Chairperson, Treasurer, Secretary General, Director)
- Executive Director (appointed by the Board)
- Staff (Administrator/Intern/Editors)
“FAIR is an independent pan-African network of investigative journalists committed to promoting effective, ethical and original reporting that moves beyond a simplistic focus on ‘corrupt’ individuals in favour of a more systematic and contextualised exposure of corruption, exploitation, and other social-justice issues.” Full version online here: http://fairreporters.net/rules-and-regulations/constitution/
Governing body: Board, Executive Committee, Executive Director, Advisory Council
Board: The Board will be elected from the general membership at an annual general meeting of the Forum. All decisions affecting policy shall be required to be ratified by the Board. Executive Committee: The primary decision-making body, responsible for implementation of policy and for the administration of the Forum as referred by the Board. In the event that the Board appoints an executive director, such executive director shall be a member of the Management Committee.
Code of Conduct: http://fairreporters.net/rules-and-regulations/fair-code-of-conduct/
ACTIVITIES AND OUTCOMES
Investigative journalism which seeks to expose human rights violations and violations of social justice, question transgressions of the law and monitor economic and political governance is under-funded throughout Africa. Since establishment in May 2003 FAIR has made efforts to support quality investigative journalism in Africa through networking, grants, conferences and the FAIR Awards.
FAIR is a multi-funded institution, with a core foundation, small revenue stream and a base of loyal members. The main donors of core and project costs since 2010 includes the Open Society Foundation (OSF), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), Hivos, and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). Other contributors and partners includes Panos Institutes (southern and west Africa) Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), ZAM Magazine, International Media Support (IMS, Denmark) and Wits Journalism (South Africa).
FAIR received funds from the Swedish International Development Corporation (SIDA) to implement the African Investigative Grants Fund in 2013. The funds covered grants and project support with additional funding pledged by SIDA for 2 more years pending FAIR’s audit and financial reports.
In addition, the Open Society Foundation provided a funds to support the cost of hosting FAIR delegates at the AGM and Power Reporting conference in Johannesburg. Free Press Unlimited extended the 2012 grant agreement to include development of a strategy and business plan in 2013.
In 2013 FAIR hired an accounting firm to improve the organisation’s financial reporting. CMDS was mandated to: Prepare financial management reports in Pastel accounting; make improvements to the Payroll system; and Design a chart of accounts linked to the organisational budget and structure of financial reports in Pastel Partner for NPO’s.
In the past, FAIR did not have any professional accounting firm, which meant that CMDS had to review a backlog of 2012 financial records to prepare an accurate chart of accounts up to current Financial Year end which is 31 March.
We will soon commission financial audits with Douglas and Velcich (D&V) our current auditors, with the assistance from CMDS, for the period Jan 2012 to 31 March 2013. FAIR has confirmed that both CMDS and D&V are legally accredited with SAICA. In addition a separate audit of SIDA funds will be undertaken by Ernst & Young, as the final requirement for 2014 grant funding. During September E&Y visited FAIR offices to meet with staff, Board and other associates for a pre-audit. We appreciate the ongoing advice from donors and financial consultants.
Note from the Commissioner Editor Khadija Sharife:
We funded over 80 grantees across various themes, ranging from small grants to larger themes such as China-Africa, Land Grabbing, War on Terror, Women and Violence, Ecological and Illicit Activities. The grant process is ongoing and we estimate over 100 grantees by end 2013.
Our budget for stories included $40 000 for small grants (each grantee receiving $1000) with a further $50 000 for five large themes, as well as smaller sums for investigation-specific concepts. Total of more than $220 000 was allocated for grants for 2013.
We wanted FAIR to develop a pan-African and international investigative portfolio, for both our journalists (new and established) as well as the FAIR brand, facilitating FAIR members as the bridge between foreign media and investigative content. The former, we know, has little budget, limited networks and even less time for in-depth investigations, identification of right investigative journalists etc.
We encouraged local publication in French, Portuguese, English, Arabic etc as much as possible (including excellent print, television and radio partners such as Guardian Tanzania, The Nation Kenya etc. From this approach, we learned how much more was needed from FAIR to ensure reach and development re: the Maghreb, as well as Franco and Por. Africa regions.
To carve a name for our members, for example, we opted to publish over 70% of small grant stories, produced thus far in print and online platforms like Al Jazeera, New African, Africa Report, Mail and Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique, etc.
(Outcomes varied: Some of our new members like Nhau from Zimbabwe, were picked up by several other media and commissioned to do other investigative or reportage pieces. Still others like Rose from Nigeria, had one story published in several outlets such as New African magazine as well as Africa Report. She was later invited to Rio international IJ conference following FAIR recommendation and perusal of her excellent work. Many other examples abound.)
All stories produced have been published or are scheduled to be published, following final edits. Two grants were cancelled – one for gross plagiarism, the other due to a busy schedule. In cancelling or querying grants, board is called to peruse information at hand to ensure transparency and fairness. Without fear or favor, we have had to anger some folks over pitches/ work that lack quality. This is part of shaping up, and needs to be done.
The editorial team included our excellent Francophone mentor, Gerard G (former FAIR chair), as well as myself. We worked closely with Arabic and Portuguese translators and editors. The admin and finance team processing contracts and payments included director Abdullah Vawda and Sindi Kubeka (thank you both!). Our wonderful lawyer (formerly with Guardian UK and Global Witness) Korieh Duodu also conducted pre and post-legal checks and, knock wood, no lawsuits or serious legal threats thus far.
The board was active in perusing final pitches before funding was approved – something that has helped us embed a system of accountability and transparency regarding our financial audits, which passed quite well.
We were fortunate to receive support, specialist guidance and funding from partners such as Oaklands Institute, WITS China-Africa and other institutions.
SIDA small grants was the first budget line to be expended (April 2013 onwards). Small grant stories, from Arabic, French, Portuguese and English-speaking journalists, were specifically designed to visibilise critical issues that are often left off the investigative map, as well as identify and mentor marginalised peoples and countries.
Over 60% of our small grants have been published in pan-African or international media, or are scheduled to be published in the same. We also strongly supported and encouraged simultaneous national publication to ensure we did not displace, but collaborated with, local media. In this capacity, FAIR provided editorial support from ‘pitch to placement’ – ie: from the first story proposal to the final placement of articles, including editorial development, fact checking, legal vetting and marketing. Publications included Al Jazeera, New African, Africa Report, Daily Maverick and others.
Our stories ranged from North Africa’s Sahrawi on the struggles of female refugees who are also political freedom fighters; to land grabbing in Madagascar by mining companies; military corruption n Angola; and rape as a political weapon in Somalia and Zimbabwe’s conflicted terrains. We designated a portion of the grants to people who required mentoring (example Kenya’s Eudias Kigai on trafficking of handicapped children from Tanzania to Kenya; Rose Nwaebuni on the myth of free health care in the Niger Delta; and Jessica Lomelin’s story on backdoor abortion in South Africa).
We also worked with professionals on top notch investigative exposes (Fiona Macloed’s cross-border rhino poaching expose focused on Kruger National Park; John Grobler’s investigation on Bulgarian copper waste in Namibia). By creating the right team of mentors and editors in four languages (English, Portuguese, French and Arabic), we were able to transcend what could have been language barriers, and turn weaknesses into strengths, publishing in national papers as well (Mozambique, Benin, etc).
The results were incredible: some small grant stories were published several times – such as Rose Nwaebuni (New African and Africa Report), while others like Nhau Mangirazi were picked by other media (from Al Jazeera’s grain story, to Africa Report’s electricity crisis piece, to New Internationalist’s country investigation etc). Over 25% of the journalists went on to receive further grants. Our country list included Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Namibia, Malawi, Angola, Liberia, Uganda, Sahrawi, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, Togo, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Mozambique, Botswana, Mali, Algeria, Somalia, Benin, Madagascar, etc.
Please find below the list of small grant stories and subject matter (including three ecological grants provided by Center for Civil Society*, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal).
- Abjata Khalif: Female genital mutilation in Kenya (New African Women magazine)
- Rasha Mohamed: Water contamination in Alexandria City, Egypt. (Pegged for Africa Report following legal vetting).
- Dann Okoth: Pollution of Kenyan rivers by corporate dumping of hyper-saline waste (The Standard, Kenya)
- Samuel Boadi: blackouts and inflated costs of electricity in Ghana (The Daily Guide, Ghana)
- Jessica Lomelin: Backdoor abortion in South Africa (Pegged for Africa Report)
- Malainin Lakhal: Refugee realities for women in Sahrawi camps (Pegged for The Thinker journal, SA)
- John Grobler: Bulgarian copper waste in Tsumeb, Namibia (New African magazine, January 2014 issue)
- Patrick Mayoyo: Climate change affecting Mount Kilimanjaro (The Nation, Kenya)
- Evelyn Kpadeh: Child Rape as legacy of war in Liberia (Lberia Women Democracy Radio)
- Sarah Mawarere: Epidemic illnesses in Uganda (Uganda Broadcasting Corporation)
- Collins Mtika: Illicit logging activity in Malawi’s largest plantation (Africa Report)
- Stanley Kwenda: Rape as a political weapon for opposition in Zimbabwe (Africa Report)
- Estacio Valoi: Philanthropy gone wrong – faulty science of coconut disease (Africa Report)
- David Njagi: Private clients finance distorted election polls in Kenya (Africa Report)
- Rachel Niinsima: Nodding disease in Uganda (Africa Report)
- Noor Ali: Persecution of gay Somalis forced to return (Al Jazeera)
- Nhau Mangirazi: Manipulation of grain market in Zimbabwe by military (Al Jazeera under FAIR byline)
- Daniel Nzohabonimina: small vendors criminalised by Kigali’s modernisation (Africa Report)
- Fiona Macloed: Rhino poaching camp expose, operating in SA’s Kruger National Park (Daily Maverick)
- Rose Nwaebuni: Myth of free health care in Delta State, Nigeria (Africa Report, New African)
- Eudias Kigai: Trafficking of handicapped children from Tanzania to Kenya (Africa Report)
- Hasna Belmekki: harsh realities of immigrant hub – Takkadoum, before migration to EU (Pegged for Jeune Afrique)
- Christophe Assogba: Organ trafficking in Benin (Le Progress, Benin)
- Jean-Claude Dossa: Imprisoned children in Benin (Le Leader, Benin)
- Mahad Diriye: rape in IDF, Somalia (Truth Meter, Somalia)
- Nyira el Sherief: labor conditions and insurance health scam in silica factory, Egypt (Pegged for Africa Report)
- Amine Amara: illicit pharmaceutical peddling through co-opted doctors, Algeria
- Pascal Andriantsoa: land grabbing in Madagascar by mining company
- Rian Malan: obsolete statistics production infrastructure in SA (Pegged for Africa Report)
- Rafael Marquez: Corruption in military, Angola (Pegged for Maka Angola)
- Kgwadu Kgwadu: Foot and mouth disease from Zimbabwe impacting Botswana (Pegged for Africa Report)
- Franck Njimbi: Land grabbing by Olam in Gabon*
- Ekow Mensah: Cyanide poisoning in Ghanaian mines (Pegged for local publication)
- Tunicia Philips: Leasing of low income areas, and radiation impact, of cell phone masts, South Africa (Pegged for Africa Report)
- Mohamed Slimani: sexual abuse of field workers in agricultural farms, Morocco (Pegged for Africa Report)
- Lazaro Mabunda: Man-made flooding crisis between Mozambique and South African dam activity (O Pais)
- Charles King: drug rings in Cape flats, South Africa (Pegged for Africa Report)
- Soumaila Diarra: Drug trafficking syndicates in Mali
- Blame Ekoue: Trafficking and poaching in Togo
- Franz Fuls: Company mining wetland without water license* (Pegged for 100 Reporters)
- Haggai Matsiko: Low rents for water use for commercial farms in Uganda* (Pegged for Africa Report)
- Nabowia Dawood: Sanctions re: Sudan have currently prevented release of funding.
- Ken Obara: Cancelled due to plagiarism. Recommissioning will soon occur.
Grant Stories published online
By Ebrima Sillah, Exclusive to Le Monde diplomatique, 21 October 2013
“I have been married for 13 years now and it’s like I am tied to it, not by love but the fact that my husband did not find me a virgin when he got married to me,” she said. “Walking out of this marriage could bring eternal shame on me and my four children because my husband could tell them why my marriage collapsed. Virginity is a big issue in our tradition.”
By Samuel Boadi, published 21 October in Daily Guide Ghana
POWER OUTAGES are common occurrences in Ghana and this uncomfortable phenomenon mostly happens unannounced and without recourse to consumers. In fact, there have been instances where consumers have had to stay days and nights without power despite the power rationing schedules published by the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) stating clearly that they were entitled to power supply at those times.
Exclusive by FAIR, published in Le Monde diplomatique, 14 October 2013
BULAWAYO — It’s been a tough life for Charmaine Garise. At 24, she has never had any source of income, but then this no breaking news in a country where labour unions say as many 80% of people find no employment. Garise lives in Plumtree, a small town 100km south-west of Bulawayo on the border with Botswana. Here Zimbabweans in large numbers brave arrests and deportation, illegally crossing into Botswana and South Africa, their El Dorado.
Par Jean-Claude Dossa, October 2013, Leader Benin
Dans les prisons du Bénin, une centaine d’enfants de zéro à cinq ans mènent une vie de « prisonniers de fait ». Présents dans l’univers carcéral en raison de la détention de leur mère, ils paient un lourd tribut de leur filiation et assistent impuissants au déni de leur innocence.
By Mahad Omar Diriye, 10 October 2013, published on Truth Meter
This story aims to promote women’s rights by taking out their voices of pain; showcasing them for better attention so they get their rights as equal citizens in a democratic and peaceful Somalia. To torch those who escape the impunity so that they never do it again to a poor mother or a girl.
By Theophilus Abbah, published in The Africa Report (27 Sep)
Boko Haram has proved resilient despite government’s crackdown on the deadly islamist group in the northern parts of Nigeria. But as that country’s government seeks to deal with the terrorism quagmire posed by the group, with their source of funding and logistics support coming under scrutiny, Boko Haram’s demands point to a long battle ahead.
By Collins Mtika, published in The Africa Report (18 Sep)
Viphya’s 53-501 hectare man-made plantation, the largest in Southern Africa, began in the 1950s in an attempt to render Malawi self-sufficient in construction timber. It would soon become a major supplier of softwood timber to African nations such as South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, as well as the Middle East. But that may soon be history. These days, Viphya stands at 10% plantation cover, and dwindling.
By Dann Okoth, published in The Standard, Kenya (16 Sep)
An environmental degradation and economic disaster is unfolding in Magarini constituency in Kilifi County amidst a thriving salt processing industry. Residents are felling decade-old cashew nut trees and selling them to salt miners as wood fuel to beat grinding poverty. Cashew nut is the main cash crop in most of Kilifi County, while mangoes play a vital economic role in the rather dry region.
Par Christophe Assogba, Le Progress, Benin (10 Sep 2013)
[FR] Au Bénin, les organes humains font l’objet d’un trafic et d’un commerce clandestin avec en toile de fond la profanation des tombes, des assassinats inhumains et des disparitions mystérieuses d’âmes. [EN] In Benin, human organs are trafficked by a clandestine trade within the backdrop of the desecration of graves, murders and mysterious disappearances of human souls.
By Patrick Mayoyo, published in Daily Monitor, Uganda (22 Aug)
By the 1800s, the glaciers on mountains Kenya, Rwenzori and Kilimanjaro had already started receding. The situation has become worse over the years and threaten the livelihoods of communities around the mountains. Millions of people who depend on mountain climbing tourism in East Africa and investors in the sector are at risk and could lose billions of shillings in revenue due to shrinking glaciers on the region’s leading mountains, studies have revealed.
By Estacio Valoi, published by The Africa Report (3 August)
A recent investigation in Mozambique revealed a multi-million development tragedy that could have been averted had the calls from farmers and stakeholders been heeded to. An $18 mllion fund to eradicate the disease served to produce negative results after the United States’ Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and its Mozambican partner ACIDIVOCA failed to consult with locals who challenged them to get the science right, run the project transparently and review it honestly.
By Rosemary Nwaebuni, published in The Africa Report (1 August)
Corruption and apathy among professionals, as well as inadequate supplies, in the public health sector of Nigeria’s Delta State have led to inane service delivery leaving many victims in their wake. Benson Okomika, a commercial motorcycle rider, rushed his wife to hospital when she suddenly went into labour. When it became apparant on arrival that she needed a cesarean section, Okomika expected the treatment to be free, as it was government policy.
By Racheal Ninsiima in Kampala, published in The Africa Report (30 July)
Walter Ojok should be enjoying his life as a young teenage boy with all life’s trials and tribulations. Instead, he lies hapless and nude on a stack of dry reeds, peering at the grass thatched roof of his family’s hut, unable to communicate, always watched over. Ojok has the frame of four year old, and yet he is 14 years old. His body is miserably thin and frail, his back severely hunched and his eyes teary. He should, at 14, be able to construct sentences, but all he is able to say is ‘wota…wota…’ a desperate attempt to say his name.
By Stanley Kwenda, published by The Africa Report (29 July)
In 2008, Alice Kasirori* was raped by four men during the violent run-off in the presidential elections. Rape was the price she paid for her husband’s political activism and resulted in the pregnancy of her third child. A mother of three, Kasirori lives in fear that her husband will discover her third child, a son, is not his. “My son is a result of rape. I don’t know his father, because I was raped by four men in one night,” she said tearfully.
By Eudias Kigai, published by The Africa Report (29 July)
Trafficking syndicates operating between Kenya and Tanzania are actively involved in the trade of handicapped children. Used in Nairobi’s lucrative ‘begging industry’, Tanzanian children are transported through major bus routes, such as the Tanzania Namanga route, to Kenya’s capital Nairobi. The journey can take up to nine hours. Once inside the borders, bribes must be paid, to Kenyan immigration officers and both Tanzania and Kenya revenue authority officers, to allow them pass without the temporary East African passport.
Published by FAIR in The Africa Report (22 July)
At camp Chechelesi on the outskirts of Isiolo town, a young female crouched on the bare floor, mourning her unborn baby. The woman, a refugee, lost her baby six months to term. The only comfort her mother – also an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) – could offer, were three painkillers Panadol, which she had struggled to buy, and another two Hedex tablets donated by a neighbor in the nearby tent. “My granddaughter has died,” mourned the tearful mother. “Next it is my daughter.”
By Nhau Mangirazi, published by The Africa Report (17 July)
A number of Zimbabweans owe substantial sums of money for electricity they don’t receive, while others get free electricity thanks to corruption at Zimbabwe’s electricity utility company. Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa), the southern African country’s electricity utility company is owed over $700 million, with domestic users accounting for nearly $261 million of the debt. Some defaulters enjoy free service due to deals organised by corrupt junior workers, asking for bribes to bury active accounts, and officers, demanding sex as payment in kind to desperate defaulting women.
By Daniel Nzohabonimana, published by The Africa Report (16 July)
Street vendors are the hallmark of sprawling African cities. In Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, life looks increasingly harsh for street vendors as the authorities seek to expand their tax base, in the face of commercial tax evasion. But who are the real culprits? Since the end of brutal genocide against Tutsi, the city of Kigali has undergone a massive move toward modernisation. Formerly known for its old buildings dating back to the colonial era, Kigali is slowly becoming a new city. In recent times, it has even has been tipped as the Singapore of Africa, a powerful salute to Rwanda’s rising promise.
By FAIR, published on Al Jazeera English (12 July)
Harare, Zimbabwe – Nearly a decade after embarking on a controversial land reform programme, Zimbabwe, once a regional bread basket, is now suffering acute food shortages. In May 2013, its agriculture-based economy imported more than 150,000 metric tonnes of grain from neighbouring Zambia, at a price tag of $25mn. Maize is a staple for Zimbabwe which consumes 2.2 million tonnes annually.
By Fiona Macleod (South Africa) and Estacios Valoi (Mozambique) published in Daily Maverick (8 July)
Rogue South African trophy hunters are directly involved in “a mad scramble” to poach rhinos and get their horns out of the Kruger National Park, according to reliable intelligence sources. The horns are sold illegally, which is facilitated by layers of corruption amongst customs officials and Mozambique’s politicians.
FAIR’s large investigative grants were comprised of pan-African and regional funds. Pan-African themes includes China in Africa, as well as Land Grabbing at $50 000 per theme. Regional grants included Women and Violence, Illicit Activities and War on Terror at $20 000 per theme.
Our large grants attracted both external funding partners (such as Wits University’s China-Africa unit), as well as content partners, ranging from civil society entities to universities and research institutes. One example includes the US’s Oakland Institute, renowned for cutting edge land grabbing investigations, via access to an exclusive trove of land lease agreements. Total investment from SIDA for large grants was $160 000, and $180 000 including all external financing ($20 000 allocated to China-Africa from WITS).
Over 47 grantees from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique, Rwanda, Kenya, Liberia, Senegal, DRC, Madagascar, Somalia, Mali, Angola, Benin, and others, were commissioned. Commissions were provided in teams as well as single grantees. Journalists from the UK, Spain, China and other countries collaborated on stories, allowing for Chinese-speaking journalists, for instance, to assist in investigations of angles related to same.
Unlike traditional media houses, with fixed identities that are specific to country, province etc, FAIR’s large grants reflect cross-border and transnational investigations enabling reporters to follow the story in context, from a political, financial, corporate, criminal (and other) trail. One example is our cross-border poaching investigation spanning Mozambique, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa, China and other related countries as origin, transit and destination points, ranging from logistics to poaching camps.
Example of China-Africa cross-border investigation (rhino and ivory poaching)
Chinese connections in African ivory & rhino horn market
Wildlife trafficking syndicates brazenly sell rhino horn and ivory at Chinese markets in Southern Africa’s capital cities, in the face of global attempts to crack down on the illicit trade in endangered species. China is responsible for an estimated 70% of the world trade in ivory, and research by the international wildlife trade monitoring organisation Traffic indicates that nearly 80% of the reported seizures of illegal rhino horns in Asia between 2009 and late last year happened in China
Maputo: Hot spot for ivory
Among the Chinese residents of Johannesburg, it is common knowledge that the Chinese buy ivory and rhino horn much more often in Maputo, capital city of neighbouring Mozambique. We visit the Saturday market at Praça 25 de Junho in Maputo, where we have learnt that buying such products is a “must do” for employees of Chinese companies who are not well educated and have unskilled jobs.
China’s growing appetite for rhino horn
Experts warn that China is steadily becoming more prominent as a destination for illegal rhino horn shipments from Southern Africa. Given China’s historical tradition of using rhino horn for medicinal purposes, the huge number of potential consumers and their growing purchasing power, the predicted growth in illicit trafficking of horns could be a disaster for South Africa’s remaining rhino populations. China accounted for nearly 80% of the reported seizures of illegal rhino horns in Asia between 2009 and late last year, despite the fact that the Chinese government had banned illicit trade in horns in early 1993.
We chat rhino horn
“Western horns”, “black plastics” and “fat meat” are all fake names for rhino horns on Baidu Tieba, the largest Chinese online community. A special section named the Rhino Horn Bar has been created to host the countless online posts selling or buying rhino horns. As a strategy to avoid online censorship or being caught, sellers often post obscure descriptions of their products. Some are accompanied by photos of horns that have been sliced or carved. Everyone promises the rhino horns are real. Many offer to mail samples for examination in advance before payment for a big deal.
The trafficking routes
The trafficking routes of rhino horns seized on their way into China vary in every case. Poached in Southern Africa, the rhino horns may be shipped in cargo holds from Cape Town or Maputo. They may also be transported to other African countries like Nigeria first and then shipped among timber or agricultural products to China. In other cases horns have been mailed or shipped to North America or Europe, and then flown on to China.
Ivory Merchants: Links Between Mombasa and Illegal Wildlife Trade
In the last three years, environmental conservation civil society agencies and government authorities have publicly condemned poaching and the illegal wildlife products trade, but to no avail.
Beyond the nuts and bolts of investigative content, we sought to break conceptual boxes, governing axiomatic beliefs, and broaden the geography of investigative possibilities. Our Women and Violence theme-investigation, therefore, sought to move beyond reductionist focus of violence as primarily socio-cultural (such as female genital mutilation etc) and moved towards broadened realities such as the political, economic, ecological and other angles. Topics ranging from microfinance to privatization of water, corrupted health services etc.
The process not only allowed us to visibilise critical issues, and develop and enhance female journalists, but also sensitise male journalists to dismantle the masculinized politician-focused narrative of journalism that has squeezed out other realities. The same stretching and challenging informed the investigative thinking underpinning other themes, whether exposing big angles such as multi-billion dollar under-invoicing and over-valuing of imports and exports by oil companies in Nigeria (Illicit), or uncovering small cracks such as $100 million sale of Chinese equipment to Uganda, ill-suited to the task (Illicit). The grantees received editorial and legal support, as requested, from pitch to placement.
Publications included Le Monde Diplomatique, Africa Report, New African, Mail & Guardian among others, penetrating pan-African and international media houses and distribution. We made an emphasis on raising FAIR portfolio as the bridge between foreign media and African journalism, while also encouraging local publication to ensure displacement and dis-embeddedness did not occur. We aimed for online publication to facilitate wide-scale access to investigations, catalyzing the use of social media as well as civil society groups, but recognizing weight of print, also placed key stories in media houses with large reach.
Commissioning occurred over a period of months for FAIR’s 87 large grantees, and has yet to be concluded for 2013, though we estimate 100 grantees by end 2013. Most stories required several months for investigation and closure of contracts will likely conclude during 2014 for some grantees, alongside publication. Investigation languages – both editorial and journalistic – included Arabic, French, Portuguese and English, in an attempt to ensure even reach, visibilisation and relevance. Forms of payment included bank transfers and Western Union remittances.
Forms of publication range from broadcast television Grantees were contracted to receive 50% up front with remaining funds remitted after approval, save for exceptional circumstances such as high travel costs. Some projects required more funding that FAIR was able to remit to one specific grant, which required us to seek external partners that helped subsidise or enable us to later recover expended funds to prevent a budget deficit (example: John Grobler’s Lobito corridor investigation – funded by FAIR at $8000 with recovery of $4000 from two external funders: WITS – already remitted, and ROAPE journal, following completion of article).
During our development of the editorial model, we found vast gaps related to aspects intrinsic to the development of stories. This included Ethics of investigation; Pitching (particularly to US and EU publications, best pitching practices etc); Photo-Investigation; understanding Financial information; Legal vulnerabilities; Data Mining; when and how under-cover strategies could be used; Fact Checking; Conflict Reporting; and finally, Cross-Examination ie: techniques of developing strong story models (ranging from closing gaps to identifying inconsistencies and contradictions) using legal prosecution model.
To date, six guides are available on the website as well as print form (ethics, pitching, data, photo-IJ, cross-exam and legal), while the remainder will be produced by next March 2013. Our partnerships included esteemed specialized institutions such as Africa Check, among others, while also using eminent journalists such as Ken Silverstein (Harpers, The Nation), Diana Schemo (NY Times, 100 Reporters), Ron Nixon (NY Times); legal specialist Korieh Duodu (Guardian UK, Global Witness); photographer Troy Inman; UK financial forensic investigators Raj Baroiliya and Micheal Guillard, among others.
This resource is freely available for all journalists online, and partner organizations such as CIJ have connected with us for use of guides for their courses, and members. To ensure even reach and development of FAIR, guides are all pegged for translation in French, Arabic, Portuguese (with a view for further language translations with increased budget) by end Feb 2014.
The cross-examination training course was specifically designed for FAIR following both a gap in the journalism market, as well as the need for journalists to learn the investigative legal techniques used by prosecutors in court rooms – a technique that is similarly required by, and critical too, investigative journalism. This course currently comprises the FAIR house-brand, and is the only training workshop conducted by FAIR.
The pilot, held in Johannesburg at the Institute for Advancement of Journalism (IAJ), was attended by both major media from SA including the Mail & Guardian, Inter-Press Service, SABC, as well as research institutes and universities, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), WITS and others. WITS University would later invite the course as part of the Power Reporting event, held annually in SA. In November 2013 the course was hosted in Kampala by the African Center for Media Excellence (ACME).
Some blurbs from our JHB course, course blurb and outline unpacked below.
“The cross-examination course was so empowering to me as a senior journalist. I also learnt a lot more about asking relevant questions during interviews with sources and people I am writing about in my stories. Course facilitator Mr Heinrich Böhmke did his sterling work in presenting the entire cross-examination course and using practical examples to illustrate his lectures to us.” (Charles Molele – Senior political reporter at Mail and Guardian)
“Journalists can learn a lot from lawyers about the art of strategic questioning. This course is engaging and practical and will equip investigative journalists with a range of clever techniques to get at the truth.” (Brigitte Read – Head of Wits China-Africa Programme)
Investigative journalism aims to get beneath the surface of a story to expose hidden facts. Investigative journalists are often also confronted by two or more mutually exclusive versions of an event. In such a situation one party is not telling the truth. Journalists must also carefully frame their questions when interviewing a principal in a story so that they are able to present readers with sufficient information in which to draw conclusions about allegations or issues. In all of the above, reporters can benefit from some of the skills and insights of cross-examination.
FAIR’s 2 day course, Cross-Examination for Investigative Reporters trained journalists with an understanding, derived from litigation, of what makes for a believable story. In so doing, the course also provides a methodology and structure for exposing falsehood in interviews, and closing the gaps in a legally sound way. An understanding of the techniques of cross-examination will allow reporters to sharpen lines of enquiry, to become more forensic and analytical in assessing the merits of their story.
Should it be necessary to discredit a principal’s version, reporters will see how do so persuasively in the final story, drawing all the strings together, avoiding sensationalism and allowing the weight of the answers provided to speak for itself. The course is highly interactive, with role-plays, audio and video-clips, group work and debate. Full guides for course content will also be made available.
Cross Examination for investigative reporters:
- Framework and conceit
- The cycle of questioning a witness
- How cross-examination improves investigative reporting
- Assessing believability
- Weight of a version
- Inconsistency and Contradiction
- Corroboration and Bias
- Reliability of observation or knowledge
- Inherent improbability
- Organizing interview preparation
- Developing a story theory
- Applying questioning techniques
- The back to front legal method
- Cross-examination on alibi
- Mini role-play
- The golden rules of cross-examination
- Adversarial questioning sample
- Dealing with difficult witnesses
- The structure of closing argument
- Advocacy insights
- Witness versus interviewee
- Strategising expose
- Uses of the Reid Technique
- Politicians as a special case
- Long role-plays
- Cross-examination for editors
- The ring of truth
- Questions an editor should pose
- Pacing a story
- The editor as expose project manager
Power Reporting (African Investigative Journalism Conference)
FAIR grantees presented at the annual investigative journalism conference, titled Power Reporting, co-hosted by WITS University and FAIR. The event, attended by major media across South Africa, enabled our pan-African grantees (Rwanda, Uganda, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Angola, DRC, Tanzania, China, Namibia etc) to articulate the nuts and bolts of investigations.
FAIR’s core team, including board members, editors and our cross-exam trainer, chaired sessions relevant to certain SIDA grant themes which included China-Africa, Illicit Activities, Land Grabbing, and Small Grants.
- Heinrich Bohmke (Techniques for cross-exam investigations)
- Daniel Nzohabonimana (Rwanda – Chinese FDI/special economic zones)
- Fredrick Mugira (Uganda – $100 Chinese ‘dud’ equipment)
- Estacio Valoi (Mozambique – Elephant poaching)
- Barbara Among (Uganda – conflict reporting)
- Gerard G (Benin – conflict reporting)
- Pascal A (Madacasgar – land grabbing/mining)
- Richard Mgamba (Tanzania – UN/DRC wasted billions)
- Mzilikazi wa Afrika (S. Africa – corruption in SA)
- Frans Fuls (Exxaro mining without water license, SA)
- John Grobler (Namibia – Lobito corridor Angola/DRC)
- Rafael Marquez de Morais (Angola – kleptocracy, illicit flight)
- Hongqiao Liu (China-Africa – rhino poaching; with partner Oxpeckers)
- Hong Huang (China-Africa – rhino poaching; with partner Oxpeckers)
- Rian Malan (South Africa – Obsolete/manufactured data production industry)
- Christophe Assogba (Benin – organ trafficking)
During 2013, the chair, editor, Francophone mentor and relevant regional board members visited Madagascar, Mozambique, Mali, Ghana, Gabon, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and other countries for specific editorial, membership, networking and training initiatives and events.
Some trips were co-funded externally (Madagascar and Zambia) through extended invitations by the African Union (AU) and Center for Civil Society (CCS, SA); others were specifically designed to visibilise marginalised countries, specifically those (Gabon, Mali). Travel referred training courses (cross-exam) in Uganda, and partnership and media house meetings in Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique (including Tanzania Media Fund, Kenya Media Programme etc).
More specifically, it enabled us to make the decision to broaden our FAIR membership to include a specific category for editors, designing resources to account for the needs of those managing investigative units, ranging from handling of leaked documents to plagiarism.
As an association of African investigative journalists, FAIR believes there is room for improvement regarding consistent high-level quality investigative reporting, professionalism and effectiveness by media in Africa generally and wants to work to help achieve such improvement.
FAIR’s mandate is to help bring these journalists together to share ideas, to train and be trained; to network and support each other; to create and promote best-practice role models and case studies; and to promote journalism as a rewarding and idealistic career choice of pride and worthy of recognition.
An important objective of the grant programme is to have many female journalists as grantees of the programme. This is based on FAIR’s acknowledgement of the fact that women are not well represented in the field of investigative journalism.
FAIR has noted, in its mission statement and elsewhere, that the under-representation of women and rural people in investigative journalism negatively impacts on the width and range of subjects that are presently covered in investigative journalism practice.
Since 2003, FAIR has proven that a peer-vetted network of investigative journalists with a mission can be an effective engine for a tangible increase in practical ‘IJ’ output in the public interest in Africa.
The purpose of FAIR’s existence is not to work in the interests of journalists, but to better enable, encourage and inspire African journalists to do better work in the interest of the African public.
Submitted to SIDA on 19 November 2013 by:
Mzilikazi wa Afrika, FAIR Board Chairperson and Abdullah Vawda, FAIR Executive Director.