ICFJ Knight roundup: ANCIR investigations win two international awards

bySara Olstad
May 6, 2016 in Data Journalism

As part of the Knight International Media Innovators blog, the ICFJ Knight team will round up stories focused on how their fellows are making an impact in the field. Find out more about the fellows' projects by clicking here.

Probes by African network win major awards, new tool helps investigative reporters and more from the Knight Fellows in this week’s roundup.

Two international awards recognize investigations in Africa

The Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) gave awards to two investigations carried out in part by the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR). OPC named the “Fatal Extraction” investigation into Australia's mining industry in Africa as the best multimedia presentation of the past year, saying it “lays bare how the quest for profits kept the industry poorly regulated and how ordinary men, women and children across Africa have paid the price.” ANCIR managed a network of 17 African journalists in 13 countries who did the grassroots reporting for this project, which was completed in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

OPC presented the “Evicted and Abandoned” probe, an ANCIR collaboration with ICIJ and The Huffington Post, with the Whitman Bassow Award for environmental reporting. The investigation detailed how infrastructure projects funded by the World Bank allegedly displaced an estimated 3.4 million people over the past 10 years. Former ICFJ Knight Fellow Friedrich Lindenberg helped to build many of the tools that the investigation used to analyze thousands of pages of data. ANCIR was founded by ICFJ Knight Fellow Justin Arenstein, who currently serves as a director along with ICFJ Knight Fellow Chris Roper.

New investigative tool lets reporters search more than 2.4 million documents and data sources

Former ICFJ Knight Fellow Friedrich Lindenberg developed a new data search feature for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)’s Investigative Dashboard using open source code that he developed during his fellowship. The tool lets journalists search across data and documents from previous OCCRP investigations, as well as official sources and scraped databases. The information is cross-referenced with watchlists based on OCCRP research and international sanctions lists.

“How does the local budget affect my finances?”

Ahead of the August 2016 local elections in South Africa, the country’s National Treasury opened up its municipal finance data to Code for South Africa as a way to strengthen civic oversight of finances and promote government accountability. “This is for us about increasing transparency so that we can increase transparency over the finances of municipalities,” Treasury official Malijeng Ngqaleni said in a video.

Code4SA recently led a #MuniFinance hackathon using this data, bringing together media, developers and activists to make sense of the R33.5 billion budget (more than US$2.2 billion). The event focused on how budget spending impacts individuals and evaluating which parts of the budget meet community needs, according to a blog about the event. Code4SA has also launched a beta API to make the budget data more accessible to the public.

Using Telegram as an alternative to Whatsapp during service block

Earlier this week, a court order blocked Whatsapp for 100 million Brazilian users for about 24 hours before it was overturned. As a way around the block, former ICFJ Knight Fellow Gustavo Faleiros launched a Telegram channel for updates from InfoAmazonia, the environmental open data map of the Amazon he launched during his fellowship. Faleiros said he is interested in using bots for distribution, and the new Telegram channel allows him to experiment with this possibility.

Code for Africa helps reporters “follow the money”

At the Open Government Partnership Regional Meeting in South Africa, ICFJ Knight Fellow Justin Arenstein spoke on a panel titled “Following the Money: how can citizens use fiscal data to contribute to sustainable development in Africa?” Reporters and technologists working with Code for Africa aim to develop projects using actionable data that helps citizens demand accountability. “We do everything to help people develop standards around ‘follow the money’ and financial data,” Arenstein said in his presentation.

In a new Poynter article, ICFJ Knight Fellow Catherine Gicheru talks about PesaCheck, a budget fact-checking initiative launched recently in Kenya. Gicheru, who led the launch, said it is rare for Kenyan journalists to fact check government finances. "We hope that by showing what is possible, the media houses will adopt a more skeptical attitude and introduce evidence-based reporting (instead of the current he-said-she-said) in their narratives," she said. PesaCheck publishes its work in various local media outlets as well as on Medium.

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Brad.K