What I learned from two experienced journalists about the importance of investigative journalism

TAYLOR TOOVEY

Last week, Griffith University’s Integrity 20 brought together some of the greatest minds to discuss the global challenges facing our world in this age of insecurities.

Displacement, censorship, conflict, terrorism, inequality, corruption and diminishing democracies were just of a few of the topics discussed by speakers that included human rights activists, campaigners, lawyers, journalists and more.

Despite the diversity of the speakers at this year’s Integrity 20, many of them were united by their perseverance and activism in the face of oppression by authorities.

On day one of the Integrity 20, I spoke to two iconic journalists that have made equally important contributions to journalism and the lives of many people, worldwide.

The first of the Integrity 20 speakers I was able to talk to was Peter Greste who, in 2013, was jailed by Egyptian authorities for 400 days, in an attack against press freedom.

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Peter Greste. Source: Daniel Chen

Since being released from custody, Mr Greste has been the recipient of many awards for his fierce advocacy for press freedom and freedom of speech.

Previously, Mr Greste has pushed boundaries and shed light on international conflicts and issues through his work as an investigative journalist and foreign correspondent. For example, his documentary, Somalia: Land of Anarchy, gave a rare insight into what life is like for civilians living in the most dangerous city on earth, Mogadishu.

Currently, Mr Greste works as a regular freelance contributor to ABC’s Four Corners, which took him to the South China Sea to investigate the power struggle between China and the U.S and how it is playing out in the Asia Pacific.

Mr Greste discussed with me how good but essential investigative journalism is, rare in Australia with Four Corners being one of the only programs, nationwide, that perform thorough journalistic investigations.

“There’s a massive problem with good investigative journalism – it’s expensive, it’s time-consuming (and) it soaks up massive amounts of resources” Mr. Greste said.

“As controversial as Four Corners has been over the past year or so, the work that it does is necessary. It needs to hold governments to account, it needs to ask awkward questions, it needs to provoke debate and discussion around these issues,” he said.

Mr Greste also stated that he is grateful for the opportunity to work with ABC’s Four Corners to continue performing solid investigative work.

“Four Corners is the kind of program that allows you to get into stories with the kind of depth that every journalist really wants to. You get to dive deep, you get to really interrogate a story and produce something much closer to a film than we ever get the chance in normal television news and in that respect it’s fantastic,” Mr Greste said.

The second Integrity 20 speaker I was able to discuss the importance of investigative journalism with was Angolan journalist and human rights activist, Rafael Marques de Morais.

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Rafael Marques de Morais. Source: Griffith University.

Mr Marques grew up in South Africa in the country of Angola and as he got older, decided to pursue a career in journalism to address the human rights issues and corruption plaguing his hometown.

Working as a journalist since 1992, Mr Marques has received international recognition and awards for his coverage of these national issues. He also heads the Angolan anti-corruption Watchdog, Maka Angola.

Despite repeated arrests and threats, Mr Marques said that he continues his investigations as a journalist and human rights activists for the people of Angola.

“It’s the privilege of being able to serve a population that has been deprived of their voices and has been left defenseless by the very same government that was supposed to protect their rights,” he said.

Mr Marques is disappointed with the prevalence of government corruption in Angola but is glad to be able to challenge authorities and bring the government to account.

“One of the thrills I have is really to investigate and expose grand schemes of corruption in my country and just as we finish this interview, I’ll go back to writing a story on the attorney general of the country whom I found to have bought land from the state… to build luxury housing development and that is illegal under the Angolan legislation. The attorney general is supposed to be the protector of the law and is in fact as corrupt as any other government official or member of the regime so for me it is a privilege to be able to bring this news to my fellow citizens.”

When asked how many investigative journalists there are in Angola, Mr Marques replied that he is one of only a few and that he hopes to see more in the near future.

“Hopefully in years to come there will be many more and I will be able to dedicate myself exclusively to writing books,” Mr Marques said.

Speaking to two accomplished investigative journalists about what they have achieved for others through perseverance, resilience, hard work, courage and activism was eye-opening.

I learned of the incredible possibilities of this area of journalism and its indisputable importance in bringing governments to account, providing insight into conflicts far,far away, provoking discussion into important issues and giving a voice to the voiceless.

Investigative journalism is lacking because of the significant amount of funding, resources and time needed to put into an investigation. However, without investigative journalism, some of the world’s greatest injustices would never have been uncovered and suffering people would never have had their voices heard.

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