What’s the global data journalism community tweeting about this week? Our NodeXL #ddj mapping from October 21 to 27 finds a panel of leading data visualization practitioners discussing the practice of visualization in an age of disinformation, Kloop exposing how Kyrgyzstani authorities privatized large swaths of a public park with no oversight, and The Guardian highlighting the minimal changes between former British prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with current PM Boris Johnson’s new deal.
When the Bureau of Investigative Journalism asked to see a contract between property developers and the North London borough of Haringey, its reporters were disappointed to receive a heavily-redacted document. This was part of a drive by the UK nonprofit to test the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, which gives citizens and journalists the right to access the accounts and related documents of city councils and other local authorities.
Getting information from official or unofficial sources lies at the heart of investigative journalism. This section of the GIJN/NAJA guide covers:
How to make official requests for information
How to work with whistleblowers
How to protect yourself
Using Access Laws to Get Information
Information laws are key prying devices in the investigative toolkit. However, the unique legal status of Indigenous governmental bodies may result in unique challenges when pursuing open information requests with these entities. The freedom of information laws of the United States and Canada do not cover tribal nations and few tribes have adopted their own access laws. There are also nuances in national laws.
After nine years and over 60,000 requests, MuckRock — the Massachusetts-based news site that specializes in using the US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — has been witness to some pretty impressive efforts to keep public information from the public. In the spirit of Sunshine Week, they compiled some of the weirdest, wildest and downright hilarious redactions they’ve received since launching in 2010.
More than 115 countries worldwide have laws that require officials to turn over public records. Of course, even in the countries that have no laws it never hurts to ask. But there’s an advantage to using an access law — variously called freedom of information laws, access to information laws, right to information and right to know laws. There are many resources for journalists seeking to file records requests in countries with laws governing access to information. To help exploit these legal tools, we’ve lined up GIJN’s Complete Global Guide to Freedom of Information, a resource with three sections:
Tips and Tricks: A collection of the best advice on how to use access laws.
Earlier this year, Botswana’s INK Centre for Investigative Journalism tracked down a dossier which detailed the heinous crimes of Gukurahundi — a series of massacres of civilians carried out by the Zimbabwe National Army in the 1980s — which had been kept under lock and key for decades. It was the first time the names of the deceased and blow-by-blow accounts of how the executions were carried out were made available to the public. INK’s Ntibinyane Ntibinyane writes for GIJN on how they did it.
Hundreds of billions of dollars flow from the US government to contractors around the world, but knowing how to dig into these contracts can be daunting. Here’s Michael Morisy from MuckRock with tips on how to dig in.
Starting a fact-checking organization in a country with limited media freedom is difficult, but not impossible. Some, like Rouhani Meter, which fact-checks Iran’s president, may have to operate from outside the country and be creative about how they distribute their content. Daniel Funke writes about fact-checkers who have found a way to work in less-than-friendly environments.
Injunctions, lawsuits, intimidation and pressure to reveal anonymous sources are all well-known tactics to stop journalists around the world from doing their work. Iceland? Not so much. But that’s exactly what has been happening recently to fellow muckrakers at two media outlets there, writes Imad Alrawashdeh for GIJN.
What’s the global data journalism community tweeting about this week? Our NodeXL #ddj mapping from May 14 to 20 finds @FinancialTimes highlighting @NASA data on high risk drought areas across the globe, @infogram juxtaposing press freedom with global peace rankings and @BBCNews showing how smuggling mobile phones is a rampant problem in English and Welsh prisons.