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Uncovering Asia: Highlights of #IJAsia18

#IJAsia18: Journalists having a good laugh during the humorous and inspiring keynote address by Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, aka Zunar. Photo: Chung Taekyong

The sold out 3rd Asian Investigative Journalism Conference was a four-day blitz of intensive exchanges of knowledge, networking and building new investigative partnerships. A total of 440 journalists from 48 countries convened in Seoul, Korea from October 4-7, 2018 for the largest ever gathering of investigative journalists in the region.

“It’s so great to see so many Asian muckrakers in one room,” Sheila Coronel, academic dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, said as she welcomed the crowd at the plenary session. She added that while it is an exciting time to be an investigative journalist, it is also a very fraught time when journalists are being vilified as “presstitutes” and purveyors of fake news.

Response to Fake News

Fake news, propaganda and troll operations are fast becoming a norm, and tactics to spread disinformation in the West are also clearly proliferating Asia. Speakers shared the trends they’ve discovered and ways to fight disinformation.

#MeToo Movement

One year on after the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal first broke, the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment is keenly felt in Asia. A packed room of journalists listened in horrified silence as journalist Shiori Ito shared her harrowing #MeToo story.

#MeToo: Journalist and a documentary filmmaker Shiori Ito, a rape survivor, receives a hug from a fellow journalist after a powerful discussion. Photo: Chung Taekyong

Extrajudicial Killings, Conflict and War Crimes

Reporting on extrajudicial killings, conflict and war crimes pose specific challenges to investigative journalists. Speakers across three panels shared practical tips and examples on how to pursue the story, handle difficult interviews and stay alive, safe and sane while reporting.

Korean Wave

Korean issues were in the spotlight this conference, during the sessions and water cooler discussions. Participants were talking about the ongoing Korean peace process, the history and future of investigative journalism in Korea and how to dig up accurate information on North Korea.

Track Everything

Journalists were determined to follow the money and track everything from ships to smugglers, and from businesses to investment deals. The packed rooms at these sessions were testament to the communal thirst for knowledge.

Call to Free Imprisoned Journalists

A 400-strong crowd of journalists strongly endorsed a call for governments worldwide to free imprisoned journalists. In particular, they urged the government of Myanmar and its civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to immediately and unconditionally release Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

Fighting Corruption with Laughter

Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, aka Zunar, peppered his keynote address with witty cartoons and humored journalists with funny anecdotes about his earlier persecution by the former Malaysian government. Zunar’s unwavering courage to stand up to corrupt leaders and speak truth to power in his drawings inspired the crowd, earning him a standing ovation.

Launch of Stories

Seed for News Japan released a story revealing that US radiation data available immediately after the Fukushima disaster showed dangerously elevated radiation levels in Tokyo, contrary to what authorities had said. Meanwhile, Cobrapost published its analysis of 2,000 income and asset declarations to India’s Election Commission, which found 194 lawmakers giving fake account numbers. Factchecker.In announced the launch of Hate Crime Watch, a database of hate crimes motivated by religion in India.


GIJN conferences are all about making new contacts, talking stories, brainstorming and collaborating. There were long breaks between sessions and three networking sessions to encourage the sharing of ideas. This year, GIJN’s conference app, Whova, took networking to a whole new level.

Tips, Tools and Videos

Missed the conference? Or couldn’t attend concurrent sessions? Our newsroom has produced more than 30 stories in English and Korean as well as videos, with more to come. Also, check out the handy tipsheets and presentations we’ve collected.

Eunice Au is program coordinator with the Global Investigative Journalism Network.  She was previously Malaysia correspondent for Singapore’s The Straits Times and a general beat reporter for Malaysia’s New Straits Times.

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