First SCOOP network meeting in Belgrade 2005. Henrik Kaufholz (left) from the Danish Association for Investigative Journalism listens together with Milorad Ivanovich, SCOOP coordinator for Serbia.
SCOOP was born in Ukraine in 2003 in the realization that in spite of a lot of training in investigative journalism for the media, there were few visible results. Training was not enough – the local journalists also needed funds to make the investigations and they needed back-up from experienced colleagues.
Members of The Danish Association for Investigative Journalism (FUJ) had been involved in the training. In cooperation with local journalists, they started a program that supported not media, but individual journalists or small groups who had a good idea for an investigation.
The idea came from a Ukrainian activist, Valentyna Telychenko, who had mentioned it to two representatives from the International Media Support (IMS) on a fact finding mission in Ukraine in 2002. She was named the first national SCOOP coordinator in Ukraine.
From the outset we planned to cover most of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. So for the first meeting, held in Kyiv in early January 2003, we reached out to colleagues in Eastern and South Eastern Europe.The founding members were Stefan Candea from Romania, Milorad Ivanovic from Serbia, Zoya Dimitrova from Bulgaria, Oleg Khomenok and Valentyna Telychenko from Ukraine – from FUJ came Anne Haubek, Brigitte Alfter and Henrik Kaufholz, and from the IMS Martin Breum. The whole group could meet in a private living room.
Valentyna Telychenko and Oleg Khomenok became the first Ukrainian coordinators, Henrik Kaufholz the first program coordinator. Oleg Khomenok still holds the coordinator title today, and Henrik Kaufholz is still the FUJ responsible for Ukraine, so SCOOP in Ukraine is still managed by the people who started it!
The IMS gave a grant of $ 10,000 to test the idea, and with that money we decided to fund three investigations. One of them – from Odessa – about the production of child pornography can be found here in Ukranian and here in English.
Good moods in Budapest 2007. Oleg Khomenok is still coordinator for SCOOP in Ukraine and a busy trainer.
All three investigations were successful, and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to give a grant of € 80,000 for investigations in Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and the countries in the West Balkans. This grant was managed by the Danish Association for Investigative Journalism (FUJ) and so was a later grant from the ministry of € 100,000.
The network is growing
The Open Society Institute over the years funded two regional conferences in Budapest, and we invited all the journalists who had received SCOOP support to present their investigations. This helped to create a network of investigative reporters in Eastern Europe and improved cross border contacts substantially.
When Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, Scoop could not support reporters from there anymore and concentrated on the West Balkans, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. In Ukraine, we have over the years supported more than 100 journalists, received numerous awards and have cooperated with Ukrainian organizations like the Regional Press Development Institute to arrange annual conferences with more than 100 participants.
The backbone of SCOOP has always been the peer-to-peer structure, meaning that this was a cooperation between journalists. In Denmark – and later also Sweden – volunteer senior journalists cooperated with the local coordinators to ensure the editorial independence of the grant decisions and that the local needs were being met as much as possible. In some cases the cooperation also helped the investigations to reach a larger audience when they were also published in Denmark or other Western European countries.
A SCOOP-supported team won the prestigious Golden Shining Light Award in 2010. Vitalie Calugarearenu, Vlad Lavrov, Stefen Candea, Dumitru Lazur, and Irina Codrean exposed how the former president of Moldova abused his power to enrich himself and his family.
This approach was appreciated by the journalists in the Eastern European countries:
“It was the first and only time that the people building a media assistance program were a voluntary group of working journalists and actually asked us, the local journalists from the region they wanted to help, what we needed, before they started,” remembers Stefan Candea, co-founder of the Romanian Center of Investigative Journalism. “And it was the only time, when they listened and encouraged us to make decisions on our own and learn from our mistakes. That gave us wings.”
The bureaucratic workload by running SCOOP was becoming too much for FUJ, which has no paid staff, so the International Media Support stepped in both as the administrative arm and fundraiser. So since 2007, SCOOP has been managed by FUJ and IMS in close cooperation.
Due to change of internet provider our archive is far from complete. But we estimate that we have supported more than 600 investigations in the whole region over the years – with Ukraine having the most activity.
Workshop in SCOOP Russia 2011 – Swedish trainer Elisabeth Hedborg chats with reporter Sergey Yudkov from Murmansk. Lina Zernova from St. Petersburg in the background.
The list of countries where Scoop has been funding investigative journalism is long: Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgystan. Add to that that Scoop has helped to start a sister organization, Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) in the Middle East and a sister organization, Program for African Investigative Reporting (PAIR) in Western Africa. SCOOP also organized the 7th Global Investigative Reporters Conference in Kyiv 2011.
Today the main activity is SCOOP Russia with grant programs in northwestern Russia – from Murmansk over St. Petersburg to Kaliningrad. From the Scandinavian side, the Swedish association for investigative Journalism, FGJ, has joined FUJ and IMS. On the Russian side, we cooperate closely with the Regional Press Institute in St. Petersburg.
The program is now in its second phase, funded by the Swedish developments agency SIDA with one million euro, and it will run until 2019. The small organization, setting out from a living room in Kyiv in 2003, has left quite a fingerprint.