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What We’re Reading: Financial Investigators Under Pressure, Ethics of Unpublishing, EU Arms Exports, Subscription Models


For this week’s Friday 5, where GIJN rounds up journalism news in English from around the world, we read about the pressure on journalists investigating financial crime, the ethics behind unpublishing stories, and a new database of EU arms exports.

Pressure on Investigators Uncovering Financial Crime (Foreign Policy Centre)

A survey of 63 journalists investigating financial crime and corruption found that a majority — 71% — said they experienced threats or harassment. The London-based Foreign Policy Centre, a non-partisan think tank, also reported this week that 50% of those surveyed — from 41 countries — said they experienced “civil legal cases, especially the use of cease and desist letters, surveillance, both on and offline, interrogation by authorities and smear campaigns.” The most frequent country for legal threats: the UK (aside from their home countries). Download the report — which was supported by GIJN, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) — or listen to the audio from the launch of the report.

The Ethics of Unpublishing: Who Decides What News Should Last Forever? (‘s Marcela Kunova spoke with Deborah Dwyer, a 2020-2021 fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, about a topic that’s increasingly important in newsrooms, yet not uniformly addressed: the ethics of unpublishing. Dwyer, who spent several years studying the issue, defines unpublishing as “the act of deleting factual content that has been previously published online in response to an external request prompted by personal motivations such as embarrassment or privacy concerns.” She talks about some of the risks of the practice, such as editorial influence and corruption, and raises crucial points. “If someone has been cleared of an accusation,” she told, “we need to decide whether it makes sense for them to remain guilty by Google.”

New Online Database of EU Arms Exports (European External Action Service)

Last week the European Union’s diplomatic service, the European External Action Service (EEAS), launched an online database on arms exports from member states. An EU transparency initiative, the database includes information from 2013 to 2019 on the “value, destination and type of arms export licenses and actual exports,” including various graphic representations. Find out more about the EU policy around arms control here, and read more about the database initiative in this piece from OCCRP.

Africa Internet: Where and How Are Governments Blocking It? (BBC)

BBC’s Reality Check reported on the rise of internet shutdowns in Africa, which the independent monitoring group Access Now says is part of a global trend. Reporters Christopher Giles and Peter Mwai pointed to Tanzania’s restricted access to the internet and social media applications during the country’s recent elections; the June internet shutdown in Ethiopia which lasted for nearly a month; as well as a series of restricted access issues this year in Zimbabwe, Togo, Burundi, Chad, Mali, and Guinea. The shutdowns use URL-based blocking as well as throttling, the act of “severely limiting traffic to specific sites, giving the impression that the service is slow, thereby discouraging access.” 

Steal this Idea: Subscription Models for 1, 2, or 4 (Twipe Mobile)

Twipe Mobile pulled out three news innovation project nuggets from the recently released Google News Initiative Impact Report. It included one of their own — a Twipe collaboration with The Times of London — which resulted in JAMES, a project around the personalized distribution of content via newsletters, and another from Austria’s Vorarlberg Online, which exponentially grew registered readers with inspiration from the gaming industry. But it was the tiered subscription model at Le Monde that really caught our eye. In a Netflix-like subscription offering, the French daily now gives single subscriber access to its website and applications; a second level includes a subscription for two accounts; and a family subscription offers access to four accounts, plus an additional six digital supplements throughout the year.

Tanya Pampalone is GIJN’s managing editor. The former executive editor of the Mail & Guardian and head of audience development at the African arm of The Conversation, Tanya contributed to Southern African Muckraking and Unbias the News. She created One Night in Snake Park, a podcast and in-depth investigation on xenophobic violence in South Africa.

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