By Yenibel Ruiz
Latin American journalists now have a tool that allows them to discover the best published journalistic research and articles in the region. The tool is known in Spanish as the Banco de Investigaciones Periodísticas (BIPYS), a database of journalistic investigations created by the Press and Society Institute (IPYS for its acronym in Spanish), which has been open for public access since July 6 through a paid subscription.
Currently, BIPYS has more than 300 works, most of which have been recognized by the Premio Latinoamericano de Periodismo de Investigación, a Latin American investigative journalism award that has been given for 13 years by IPYS and Transparency International.
By having "privileged access" to the best Latin American work, IPYS recognized the need to not only systematize information, but to share it with journalists, editors and journalism students interested in conducting research.
The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas spoke with Ricardo Uceda, executive director of IPYS, who deemed it necessary to learn and share information on how journalists began their investigations, how long it took them, whether or not they were budgeted by a media outlet, and more.
"I don’t think there's any other knowledge source in Latin America that has the history of investigative journalism in Latin America as recorded by the database," said Uceda.
The database not only provides access to outstanding investigations, but each entry is accompanied by a methodological guide that explains its realization as well as an interview with the author.
During a conversation with the Knight Center, Uceda said the idea was to create a system that managed to make this information profitable to journalists and accessible to everyone. In other words, a place where journalists can "download it, enjoy it, study it".
The database, however, is not a publishing platform, but a tool for journalists to deepen their knowledge about what has been done in journalism in the region.
Although material from the database comes mainly from the award winners gathered by IPYS, if there is any journalist who has not won, but would still like his or her research to be part of the database, they can contact the organization. The research must be a published and exemplary work.
At the moment, the BIPYS mainly has stories of corruption allegations such as 'Menem's Swiss accounts and his private secretary,' of Argentina; 'The secret sale of arms from Chile to Ecuador in the Cenepa conflict' and 'The dark accounts of the presidential campaign of Rafael Correa,' of Ecuador; 'International connection of the FARC,' of Colombia, or 'The Antonini case: Moisés Maionica's relations with the government and private enterprise,' of Venezuela, among others.
Corruption was the main theme of the reports because it was the approach taken by the prize board during its first calls for work, explained Guilherme Canela, director of UNESCO for Latin America, an organization that promotes the use of BIPYS .
"It is undeniable that investigative journalism remains focused on corruption. However, at UNESCO, we also think it is necessary to bring other elements to the surface and show that there are people who do that in a very qualified manner. The winners of the Pulitzer this year wrote about domestic violence," said Canela in an interview with EFE .
However, he highlighted other investigations with a focus on human rights and whose information can be obtained without the need for a secret source. In fact, for Canela, one of the contributions of the database is showing the way journalists use access to information laws.
"In many cases, it was the own journalists' strategies to access information or process data available," said Canela referring to the works available in the BIPYS .
Therefore, he is convinced that the available investigations will help promote access to information and freedom of expression while highlighting the role of journalism in democracy.
This is in line with Uceda, who believes the BIPYS can also be useful for society to evaluate the role played by journalism in democracy in their countries.
"In the database there is research of more than 10 presidents which includes complaints such as the illicit enrichment of judges in Ecuador. [The database] revaluates the role of the journalist," he said.
How to access the database:
In order to have access to all investigations, you have to subscribe. Although there are still issues to be defined regarding the registration process, those interested in having immediate access to the database can communicate directly with the IPYS.
According to Uceda, part of the project is that universities who are interested in having systematic access must subscribe and pay an annual fee. Likewise, journalists who want permanent access are subject to this fee.
However, if a user only wants to use the platform to search for specific information they can contact the database.
How does BIPYS work?
IPYS Venezuela systematizes the main information in the database in the following manner:
Although the database is in its initial phase, Uceda knows he does not want to stop here and is considering a second stage that can "expand the tool to those who are most interested."
In this second phase, the objective is that the universities that subscribe to the database have a representative who attends a forum of the Latin American Conference on Investigative Journalism (Colpin for its acronym in Spanish) - also organized by IPYS - to "review and reflect on how to approach training and education,” he said.
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.