Starting in 2010, Freedom House Romania took on the task of supporting investigative journalism in Romania. As such, over the years we developed four different projects in order to foster the development of this type of journalism as an independent and valuable tool in the fight against corruption, organzied crime and human trafficking.
Our first program – Supporting Investigative Journalism (2010-2013) – aims to professionalize investigative journalists, to directly stimulate and support this journalistic species. The project focused on seminars, internships at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London and grants.
A second project developed by Freedom House Romania and funded by the United States Embassy and the French Embassy in Romania is – Grants for Investigative Journalism. It focused on training and professionalizing journalists through workshops, but also on financially supporting theM. Some examples of the individuals who took part in our seminars are: Cosmin Savu, who wrote a piece on the involvement of the State Domain Agency in illegal land transactions; or Paul Ciurari, who brought to light a money scheme involving officials from the Ministry of Health, consultancy firms and the statistical data pertaining to the Romanian patients.
We later on continued with – Digital enhancement tools for investigative journalists (2015-2016) – which concentrated on assisting journalists in translating their articles, investigations and reports into more visually attractive pieces (by using digital tools for illustrating with maps, data and info-graphics). In addition, through a couple of seminars, with over 50 participants, we offered journalists lessons on online tools and services, relevant open sources and databases regarding money laundering.
The first seminar on human trafficking for journalists was held in Sinaia in 2018. We organised training sessions for over 140 participants in three countries (Romania, Bulgaria and Italy).
One of the project’s most essential results was the first journalist exposure of the Țăndărei case on trafficking minors, one of the most violent European criminal networks acting in different EU countries. Some relevant articles which emerged from this program are Sebastian Oacea’s Loverboy investigation and Țăndărei. Our final report can be found here.
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Journalists against Organized Crime (2019-2020) – focused primarily on the victims of trafficking in human beings and raising awareness through investigative journalism, by enhancing journalists’ skills and publishing investigative features at the local and national level.
Throughout the program, we organized workshops in which participants learnt how to manage human trafficking investigations from experienced journalists, who have previously investigated the subject Andrei Ciurcanu, Agent Green and from experts such as Silvia Tabusca, Bernie Gravett and Mihai Cazacu.
„At a time when the press has reached such a low level, we need someone to encourage journalists to conduct investigations. Investigations are the kind of press where you can’t fake work. If you can still write a report from the table of a pub in the village of Popricani between two beers, in an investigation the journalist has to work hard for every line he puts on paper. And when in today’s press the quality of a reporter’s work starts to be mistakenly analyzed by the employer by the „number of views” and not by the real impact on society, then you don’t feel like doing surveys but running after the skirts of third-hand celebrities. „
„This program was probably the only chance to make the subject I proposed somewhat professional, otherwise I would not have been able to document it with 2-3 trips among the members of the sect and talk to the one who leads it. I must admit that such programs are probably some of the few opportunities for topics to appear in the local press that are more than a „sensational” title (because the Romanian press is one of titles, not one of content), materials in that the content is as good or perhaps even better than the title of the article „
The program is a kind of (electric) shock administered to me and I think not only to me, but to all the journalists who participated in the program. I assumed my role as a freelance journalist for the second time. I realized that at least the institutions no longer ask questions about belonging to a media institution. Good thing! I felt free to make the materials supported by Freedom House. As embarrassing as it sounds, I repeat, I felt like a free man, with nothing to lose. That’s what Freedom House does. „
„For me, the Grants for Investigative Journalism – GIJ grant is an important act of trust. When not even my colleagues believed that this investigation could be completed, Freedom House Romania trusted me. With their help and encouragement I managed to prove that investigative journalism can be done in the Hungarian press in Romania, in a relatively small community, far from both centers of power, Bucharest and Budapest „
„Without this grant, the investigation into the Cantacuzino Institute would certainly not have been done. There were other journalists who covered the subject but did the investigation on the phone, the interviewees told me this, and not in the field as would have been normal. If it weren’t for this grant, I wouldn’t have allowed myself to work on the survey for 2 months, to document it so well, to know the people who really mattered and to deepen the subject. „
„I have over thirteen years of television experience, of which six in the social field and investigations, but thanks to the grant offered by Freedom House I conducted the first written survey, published online. So I had the opportunity to learn how to design a survey for a different publishing medium than the one I was used to, I had the chance to work with an editor to learn from, Paul Radu. Without the Freedom House grant, I don’t know if I would have gone to the online area as well. „