50 Investigative Journalists Meet in St Petersburg

Fredrik Laurin, reporter at Swedish TV program Uppdrag Granskning, listens to questions from the participants

Fredrik Laurin, reporter at Swedish TV program Uppdrag Granskning, listens to questions from the participants.

“My point is that international illegal fishing can be fought by international cooperation only,” the often-awarded Swedish investigative journalist Fredrik Laurin told his audience of Russian colleagues.

He was one of two Swedish keynote speakers at SCOOP Russia’s first ever conference on investigative journalism held in Russia 9-10 December 2016. The conference is probably the biggest such event held ever in North West Russia.

His point goes for any fishy business that journalists in different countries try to reveal. Fredrik Laurin suggested more international cooperation for the 50 Russian journalists from Northwest Russia who spent two days in Pushkin, just outside Saint Petersburg, to learn more tips and techniques for their work. A majority of the participants came from regions far away from Russias second biggest city Saint Petersburg.

Fredrik Laurins example of illegal fishing was twelve years old. Nevertheless it was relevant, because it was made possible only with help from Russian journalists in Murmansk.

Investigate – and come back later

Another point of Fredrik Laurin was that journalism matters. The investigation on illegal fishing, aired by Swedish TV4 Kalla Fakta, changed the rules on fishing in the European Union. It also embarrassed Scandinavian companies claiming to sell only ethically caught fish, while Fredrik Laurin and his partners Sven Bergman and Joachim Dyfvermark could show this was not true.

Uppdrag Granskning editor Nils Hanson gives tips to make the reporting better.

Uppdrag Granskning editor Nils Hanson gives tips to make the reporting better.

“Now it would be time to make the same investigation again, to find out if illegally caught cod is being sold to the market today as it was then,” he said.

International impact

He also gave examples of more recent investigations having big impact: The investigation on Telia Sonera’s murky cooperation with security services in non-democratic countries such as Uzbekistan and Belarus forced the company to pay a very expensive fine in the United States, the leaders of Telia Sonera lost their jobs and the board has put all their daughter companies in Eurasia on the sell-out list.

The third example was Panama Papers where he cooperated with Russian colleagues among others and where Sven Bergman in cooperation with the Icelandic colleague Johannes Kr. Kristjansson, made the interview forcing Iceland’s prime minister to resign.

Both Telia Sonera and Panama Papers were published in the Swedish television program  Uppdrag Granskning, a flagship of investigative journalism not only in Sweden but also world wide.

The Editor-in-Chief of Uppdrag Granskning, Nils Hanson, outlined a number of tips that can be practised by any investigative journalist. The use of line-by-line fact check and an in-house Devil’s advocate, are two of the principles helping Uppdrag Granskning to avoid errors in their investigations.

It can be done in Russia

After the first day’s examples from Sweden, some of the Russian journalists claimed that it is much easier making investigations in Sweden, but almost impossible in Russia.

Even if this remark contains a lot of truth, the speakers of the second day showed that a lot can be done also in Russia.

Aleksandr Gorshkow, from Azjur and Fontanka, shared his local experience from Saint Petersburg.

He was followed by three very good examples of investigative journalism pieces presented by participants in SCOOP Russia.

First Aleksey Semyonov presented the investigation he and his colleagues on Pskovskaya Gubernia made regarding dead Russian soldiers, returning from the allegedly non-existing war in Ukraine. Their work has been big news in the worlds biggest media.

Next was Svetlana Zobova from Saint Petersburg who has examined why the football club Zenit’s new stadion has not been built yet.

The final example was Roman Romanovskiy from Kaliningrad, who sent the claimed cleaned waste water from the regions waste water treatment facilities on analysis, and found it as dirty as the waste water pumped into the buildings. This year he has repeated his investigation to see what has happened. The result will be published locally in local media in Kaliningrad.

Biggest IJ event in many years

The conference was arranged by the Regional Press Institute in cooperation with the SCOOP coordinators, and RPI director Anna Sharogradskaya gave the closjng remarks.

The conference was arranged by the Regional Press Institute in cooperation with the SCOOP coordinators, and RPI director Anna Sharogradskaya gave the closing remarks.

The closing speech was held by Anna Sharogradskaya, director of the Regional Press Institute, arranging the conference in cooperation with the Russian coordinators of SCOOP Russia and Scandinavian colleagues.

The opening speech was held by SCOOP Russia’s Project Coordinator Börge Nilsson, representing the Swedish and Danish associations for investigative reporting, FGJ and FUJ.

“I am very impressed. This is, as far as I understand, the biggest event of its kind taken place in this part of Russia for many years — if not ever”, Börge Nilsson says.



Reporters Join Forces With TI Against Corruption

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Transparency International (TI) are joining forces in a first of its kind partnership to root out grand corruption on a global scale, the Global Anti-Corruption Consortium.

This initiative will connect investigative journalists turning a spotlight on the secretive shadow economy with anti-corruption activists able to translate complex information into campaigns for change. The project is structured to ensure the independence of reporters and activists to pursue their distinct goals, and will generate information sharing between those communities on an unprecedented scale, with common themes agreed at editorial level. Read more


SCOOP Conference in St. Petersburg

SCOOP in cooperation with The International Media Support and the Regional Press Institute, invites journalists from Northwest Russia to participate in a conference on investigative journalism on December 10-11 in Pushkin, St. Petersburg.

Meet international capacities who have made investigations with impact across borders – and meet colleagues who have learned investigative methods through the SCOOP program and used them in their daily work as journalists in Northwest Russia.

Participation is free, and transportation costs are covered. See more and find the whole conference program here.

Not a Single Official Refugee from Ukraine to Kaliningrad in Two Years

Accomodation for migrantsFighting in the south-east of Ukraine forced millions of Ukrainian citizens to flee from their homes to save their lives and the lives of their children. Many have lost their relatives, their homes and belongings. Many did not have a choice where to go – only to Russia, which at that time offered them help and support.

The purpose of this investigation was to find out whether Ukrainian refugees in Russia received any support. Or were they left with their problems alone? Russia promised to support refugees on a state level. However nobody was granted an official refugee status in Kaliningrad region in last two years.
The investigation was made by Anastasia Drozdova and published in the newspaper Novy Karavan 5th of March 2016.

Read the original investigation – part 1part 2part 3

Read the English translation

If You Can’t Buy It, Burn It

romanIn the Kaliningrad region, people are in danger if they live in old houses on attractive spots close to the sea. Someone might want to have their beautiful view.

If a person living in an old house on a popular locations refuses to leave, there is a big risk that their house will set fire. During the last two years more than 200 arsons have been recorded in the Kaliningrad region.
The journalist Roman Romanovskiy has been digging deep into the fires and found dead bodies, a local politician who owns a construction company and the new expensive housing he has built on the lovely plots.
The investigation was published in the newspaper Dvornik 1 of March 2016, on the website Rugrad March 3rd 2016 and on Transparency Internationals Russia’s website for Kaliningrad.

Read the English translation


Ukrainian Refugees Forced Back From Russia

resettDuring the two years of the armed conflict in Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced out of their homes. Many of them have moved within Ukraine. A large number of them followed Russian propaganda and went to Russia. However, not everything was so wonderful in the Russian Federation: only a few regions could give out refugee status, and only some offered free lodging and financial benefits. Having no work permits or legal documents, many Ukrainians were forced to return back to Ukraine.

In Ukrainian cities, a big volunteer movement started. Local residents gathered food and clothing and offered lodging to people who came from Eastern and Southern Ukraine. Donbas residents themselves actively joined the volunteer movement and started their own NGOs, and by their own example inspired others.

The video “Resettlement Secrets” by reporter Tetyana Rikhtun for the Chornomorska TV/Radio Company was posted on YouTube on March 9, 2016.

See the original video

Read the English translation




Big money in Illegal Ukrainian amber

Wherever you find precious stones like amber, you also find smugglers and organized crime. The Volyn region in Ukraine and the Russian enclave Kaliningrad – both with large deposits of the precious material – are no exceptions, and consequently the Polish city of Gdansk is the capital of a veritable industry of  illegal jewellery.

The Russian reporter Nikita Kuzmin and his Ukrainian colleague Maya Holub investigated how amber is mined illegally, crossing borders illegally and the structures behind the schemes. And surprise, surprise: a friend, Sergey Chemezov, of the Russian president Vladimir Putin is in this business.

The article “How Ukrainian Amber is Illegally Transported to Poland” by reporters Maya Holub from the Ukrainian/Polish newspaper “Monitor Wołyński” and Nikita Kuzmin from the Kaliningrad business portal Rugrad.eu was published online on the Corrupt.ua portal on February 24, 2016.

Read the original article (in Ukrainian)

Read the English translation



SCOOP Coordinator Wins Golden Spade Prize

GuldspadegalanValeria Helander, Swedish SCOOP coordinator for St. Petersburg, was awarded the Golden Spade Prize on Saturday evening at the annual Swedish investigative journalism conference. The prize was given in the magazine category. Congratulations!

Valeria Helander and her colleague Elin Ericsson received the prize in recognition of their documenttation of how the Swedish immigration authorities use non-qualified interpreters, which makes an already difficult situation worse for refugees arriving in Sweden. Their work was published in the magazine Faktum.

FOTO: Gräv2016

CIJ Summer School Open for Booking

The Summer School at Center for Investigative Journalism at University of London is open for bookings.

Focus is on on data journalism for all levels. From beginners to advanced, featuring hands-on sessions and case studies. There will also be courses on how to conduct investigations, covert filming, financial investigations, sports corruption, the Freedom of Information Act and much more.

Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and author James B. Steele and the editor-in-chief of The Intercept Betsy Reed will be among this year’s keynote speakers.

Read more

Too Much Water Makes The Kaliningrad Sausage Profitable

Three out of four samples of so-called high quality sausages bought in the local food store in Kaliningrad contained much more water than allowed in the Russian state standards. That was the result when the reporter Anastasia Drozdova in Novy Karavan sent the samples she had bought to laboratories.

The investigation was published 22nd of December 2015 in Novy Karavan Nr 41. This was the second time the investigative reporter Anastasia Drozdova tried to figure out what the sausage from local producers in Kaliningrad is made of. The first attempt failed, as any of laboratories couldn’t tell how much meat was in the sausage.

But Anastasia Drozdova didn’t give in. She bought a selection of locally produced high quality sausages in the food store and sent it to three different laboratories – in Kaliningrad, Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

The result was astonishing. According to the protocols from the labs, three out of four samples contained more water than allowed in the state standards, to which the producers referred on the package. Since water is cheaper than meat, this makes it profitable for the producer, but the customer is cheated.

In a message The Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights in Russia, Rospotrebnadzor writes, that food that does not live up to the information on the package should not be sold. The consumer who bought it has the right to get their money back, according to the statement.

Read the original article

Read the full supplement of the investigation(Russian only) – page 1-2page 3page 4page 5-6page 7-8

Read the English translation