Kathmandu prepares to host its largest-ever international journalism conference next week
From left to right: Sheila Coronel, Columbia University, New York, Steven Gan, Malaysiakini, Wahyu Djatmika, Tempo, exposing Panama Papers in Indonesia, Ying Chan, University of Hong Kong
More than 300 journalists and speakers from 30 countries will be attending the second Asian Investigative Journalism Conference, 22-25 September, in Kathmandu, the largest ever-international media conference to be held in Nepal.
The event is organised by the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) and co-hosted by the Kathmandu-based Centre for Investigative Journalism Nepal (CIJN), and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of Germany. It is expected to bring together some of Asia’s best muckrakers, data journalists and media law and cyber-security experts from around the world.
Recent crackdowns on press freedom across Asia have made it difficult and dangerous for reporters, especially investigative journalists. Media has had to battle censorship, overt state control, harassment, and reporters have been killed even in countries with long traditions of free press such as Philippines and India.
However, Asia has also seen courageous journalists expose corrupt leaders for their ill-gotten wealth, kleptocratic state machineries, investigated cross-border financial crimes, trafficking, illegal logging and has uncovered large-scale plunder of state coffers like the 1MDB scandal in Malaysia.
“Now, more than ever, Asia needs powerfully reported stories that uncover wrongdoing by powerful individuals and institutions,” says Sheila Coronel of Stabile Centre for Investigative Journalism of Columbia University, whose expose of Philippine President Josef Estrada in 2001 led to his downfall. “The Kathmandu conference is a unique opportunity to foster cross-border collaboration among investigative journalists in the region and elsewhere.”
Coronel is a speaker at the conference together with the Pulitzer Prize winning team that investigated the Seafood Slaves story for the Associated Press. Walter V Robinson of the Boston Globe whose investigative story on paedophile priests featured in the Oscar-winning film, Spotlight, will be giving the keynote speech.
Ying Chan who has just finished her tenure as dean of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong, Steven Gan of the independent news portal, Malaysiakini, and strong teams of investigative and data journalists from India and Pakistan will be in attendance.
“We’re witnessing an extraordinary response to the Kathmandu conference, not just in the number of investigative journalists participating, but also in the high calibre of speakers,” GIJN Director David Kaplan told the Nepali Times. “What happens in Nepal next week will influence Asian journalism for years.”
The first Uncovering Asia conference was held in Manila, Philippines in 2014 and got such a positive response that GIJN decided to hold another one, and proposed a partnership with CIJN.
“At a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to uncover the truth and present facts to the public, the conference will provide huge motivation to Nepali journalists, especially investigative reporters,” says Namrata Sharma, Chair of CIJN. “At the same time it a matter of pride for Nepal to host an event in which so many globally well-recognised journalists will be participating.”
The conference will have more than 60 workshops and panels: from a forum on the Panama Papers to panels on investigating corruption, climate change, health, to a session assessing the state of investigative journalism in Nepal. Journalists from Kantipur, Republica, Annapurna Post, The Kathmandu Post, BBC Nepal, Nagarik, Ujjyalo and other Nepali media portals are expected to participate.
There will also be a demonstration on the use of database managers and a workshop on security for investigative journalists. Advanced mapping, Internet detective, Media Law Clinic, virtual reality and hands-on training in data journalism and digital protection are other aspects that the conference is scheduled to cover.
“The era of the lone wolf is over. An increasingly interconnected world needs journalists who can work across borders to hold power to account,” says Sheila Coronel.
There will also be panels on the best cross-border investigative stories on post-disaster reporting, data mining, covering conflict, human trafficking and slavery, organised crime and terrorism.
Some of the notable participants attending the Asian investigative journalism conference:
From left to right: Walter V Robinson, Boston Globe editor featured in Oscar-winning film Spotlight, Mar Cabra, Nils Milvad, European Journalist of the Year, 2005
From left to right: Clare Rewcastle Brown, investigating Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal, Brant Houston, author of Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide
Asia uncovered, Guna Raj Luitel
The storytellers, CK Lal
Investigative journalism competition