International investigative journalism conference in Brazil draws record attendance

With more than 800 attendees registered, the 6th International Congress for Investigative Journalism held June 30-July 2 and hosted by the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI in Portuguese), was the largest yet. More than half of the participants were journalists from throughout Brazil who came to the conference in São Paulo to help make it one of the country's top such events.

“It's impressive to see how the event reached similar proportions as the conference held by Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) in June in Florida, which had 850 people registered," said Rosental Calmon Alves, founder and director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, who was honored during this year's ABRAJI conference. IRE is the main investigative journalism organization in the world and inspired the foundation of ABRAJI in 2002.

In total, 123 panelists from Brazil and around the world participated in round table discussions and workshops touching on themes such as digital journalism, investigative journalism techniques, sports coverage, international coverage, and protective safety measures for journalists.

Speakers included Kristinn Hrafnsson, spokesperson for Wikileaks. In an interview with the Knight Center, Hrafnsson said she was impressed with the event. "I have been in other conferences, and this is one of the largest and best organized, with great panels," she said.

Computer-assisted reporting specialists like David Donald from the Center for Public Integrity, Aron Pilhofer from the New York Times, and José Roberto de Toledo from Estado de S. Paulo taught various techniques to attendees.

Also, in light of the ongoing discussion over a freedom of information law in Brazil, political scientist Greg Michener and Hrafnsson from WikiLeaks presented examples of similar laws in other countries.

The protection of journalists — a theme of growing importance given recent attacks on the press, especially in Mexico — also was a panel topic during the conference, including speakers such as Sandra Lefcovich of the International Committee of the Red Cross; Rodney Pinder of the International News Safety Institute, Andrei Netto, correspondent for the newspaper Estado de S. Paulo who was arrested in Libya in February 2011; Marcelo Moreira of TV Globo; and João Paulo Charleaux of the site Última Instância. Ana Arana, of the MEPI Foundation, spoke about the violence against the press in Mexico.

The conference ended with a discussion over the challenges and threats to the future of investigative journalism with Rosental Calmon Alves, Joshua Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab, David Donald of the Center for Public Integrity, Brant Houston of the Investigative News Network, and Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation.

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas has supported the ABRAJI conference, which has been held since 2005. This year the Knight Center sponsored the training sessions for journalists.

Complete coverage of the event in Portuguese is available on the official conference blog.

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.