On 13 October, Transparency International and the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (Press and Society Institute, IPYS) named three Brazilian journalists as the winners of this year’s Latin American Investigative Journalism Award for exposing the illicit enrichment of Brazil’s former Chief of Staff. The ceremony took place in Colombia at the Latin American Investigative Journalism Conference (COLPIN), which brought together journalists from across the region to discuss how to investigate and expose the truth in the region.
The team of Folha de Sao Paulo journalists produced a series of reports that brought down Dilma Rousseff’s Chief of Staff. In what the jury defined as a “classic piece of investigative journalism” the reporters started their work following a simple and isolated piece of information: the purchase of a luxury apartment in Sao Paulo. They then came across other leads and patiently followed them until they managed to discover and expose a huge illicit enrichment scheme.
The alleged beneficiary of this scheme was a powerful public servant named Antonio Palocci who was President Dilma Rousseff’s Chief of Staff at the time. Reported evidence of multi-million reais contracts in favour of a consultancy firm in which he was involved, the discrepancy between the public servant’s patrimonial declarations, salary and possessions, and a series of other pieces of data, allowed the journalists to create a strong case that put pressure on him and ultimately led to his resignation. Legal investigations are still ongoing. According to the journalists, Palocci has publicly admitted unlawful contracting with companies and the government.
This piece of investigative journalism work came at an important time for Brazil, ahead of the resignation of a further seven ministers allegedly involved in corruption scandals.
Latin American investigative journalism in 2012
This year, the award received 209 nominations from 19 different countries in the region. These included investigations published in newspapers, radio, television and internet.
Putting corruption in the spotlight
One of the main themes of the Latin American Investigative Journalism Conference was corruption. Investigative journalism is crucial for exposing corruption and providing citizens with information that enables them to stand up to it. Journalism can be a public watchdog on the abuse of power. As David Kaplan from the Global Investigative Journalism Network said at the opening of the conference, “if you invest in investigative journalism, you get dividends in democracy, transparency and accountability”.
View pictures from the Latin American Investigative Conference and Award ceremony here:
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