Latin American cross-border reporting: The experience of IDL-Reporteros

Part of the IDL-Reporteros’ team: Rosa Laura, Cecilia Narvaez, Gustavo Gorriti and Hernán P. Florindez.

IDL-Reporteros is the first digital, non-profit media outlet in Peru wholly dedicated to investigative journalism. Founded in 2010, IDL-Reporteros has published more than 1,000 stories about corruption at the top levels of government and corporations, drug trafficking, organized crime, extractive industries and violations of consumer rights. Its goal is to secure well-informed decision-making by citizens and to demand government accountability.

We are aware that IDL-Reporteros is part of a worldwide pioneering effort to stem the weakening —and prevent the demise of— investigative journalism in traditional newsrooms. From NGO-based journalism (as in our case) to investigative journalism units embedded within universities, the shape and dimension of these projects involve a rich variety. The multifaceted imagination brought about by enterprising people is dedicated to this very important goal: to make it possible for investigative journalism — vital to a functioning democracy — to endure and grow strong.

Many of our investigations have led to legal reforms, judiciary prosecutions and political changes in the public and private sectors. In this context, IDL-Reporteros has won three international awards for investigative journalism.

One of the most important lessons concerns the practice of investigative reporting itself. In Latin America, where every country is rife with corruption at various levels and depths, there is a direct correlation between the complexity of the issue and the time and sheer effort needed to investigate it.

Recent experience demonstrates that the most important journalistic investigations involve significant cross-border reporting. Its main purpose is to make it possible to engage successfully in complex international research on major corruption (corporate, political) and organized crime.

Since last year, IDL-Reporteros has led a regional investigation about the Lava Jato Case, the most important anti-corruption investigation in Latin American history, which started in Brazil.

This case has opened a unique, unprecedented window of opportunity to discover in detail the inner workings of corruption, the identities of the crooks, the political decisions behind the bribes, their amounts, and the financial technologies employed to hide and launder the money. The money trails of hundreds of millions of dollars have been thoroughly mapped in several cases, many through the confession of the financial operatives or those who were bribed.

This cross-border network is composed of journalists from IDL-Reporteros in alliance with reporters from Armando.Info, in Venezuela, and La Prensa, in Panama. We also collaborate with La Nación (Argentina); Ciper (Chile) and the organization Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad (Mexico).

IDL-Reporteros already had experience in these kinds of investigative projects. It was part of the journalistic team that participated in the most important investigations led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ): the Panama Papers, Swiss Leaks and Offshore Leaks.