Abraji named Personality of the Year in Brazilian newspaper’s Make a Difference Awards

The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji), one of the most important and active journalism organizations in the country, was chosen as the 2013 Personality of the Year by the Make a Difference Awards, which have been organized by the Brazilian newspaper O Globo for the last 11 years. The newspaper made the announcement on Saturday Jan. 27, and highlighted Abraji’s contributions to freedom of expression and information in the country.

The award comes after more than a decade of work by the organization, which last year hosted the Global Investigative Journalism Conference, an unprecedented gathering of journalists that attracted with more than a thousand participants worldwide.

“It started with an e-mail exchange at a university. It continued with the creation of a series of courses and discussions. Recently, it became one of the main advocates in support of the country's Access to Public Information Law, besides having an essential role in the protection of journalism professionals during last year’s protests in the country’s streets,” O Globo said.

The idea for Abraji was born in the midst of tragedy: the murder of Tim Lopes in June 2002, a Brazilian journalist from  Rede Globo, during an investigative feature on the sexual exploitation of minors in a community in Vila Cruzeiro, in Rio de Janeiro. The murder led to unprecedented concerns among Brazilian journalists, who decided to unite in what motivated Lopes the most: investigative journalism.

In August 2002, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, which was born around the time, joined with Lopes’ friends and colleagues to create the first official activity of the organization: the international seminar “Investigative Journalism: Techniques, Ethics and Dangers,” in the Journalists Union of Rio de Janeiro’s headquarters.

After the seminar, journalists and editors continued the discussions in an e-mail listserv hosted to this day by the Knight Center, at the University of Texas at Austin. Several journalists suggested creating in Brazil something similar to the American organization Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). The result was the launch of Abraji in December 2002.

Until now, the organization has trained close to 6,000 journalists and students, carried out conferences on investigative journalism, 61 in-attendance courses, 33 online courses and 14 discussions.

“Abraji’s work symbolizes … the constant efforts to perfect Brazilian journalism, to practice, in the best way possible, freedom of the press in the way the constitution outlines it,” said O Globo in the prize’s announcement.

Furthermore, Abraji’s actions have been paramount in issues surrounding reporters’ securitygovernmental transparency and new reporting techniques. At the head of the organization have been journalists Marcelo Beraba, Angelina Nunes, Fernando Rodrigues, Marcelo Moreira and the current president Jose Roberto de Toledo.

In the ninth edition of its annual conference, which will take place next July in São Paulo, Abraji will focus on teaching data journalism techniques.

“Classifying and collecting, contextualizing data for in depth reporting: that’s where data journalism comes in. It caters to that demand for quality information. This will be one of two main areas of focus at the conference this year. No one collects and contextualizes information like we do," said Toledo, a pioneer in Computer-Assisted Reporting (or CAR) in Brasil.

In its 11th edition, the Make a Difference award strives to honor Brazilians and institutions that contributed in moving the country forward in areas of culture, health, science, economy and education. The selection of the winners is made by judges in the editorial body of the newspaper.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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