Latin American journalists gather to call for more cooperation across countries, better understanding of organized crime

Day two of the 8th Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas on Saturday, Sept. 18, at the University of Texas at Austin kicked off with journalists from South and Central America and Eastern Europe discussing how reporters and journalism organizations can cooperate across borders to better cover organized crime.

The panel, "Regional, cross-border and global initiatives on coverage of organized crime," included Mauri Konig of Gazeta do Povo and the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism, Osmar Gomez of ABC Color and the Forum of Paraguayan Journalists, Gabriel Michi of the Argentine Journalism Forum, Giannine Segnini of La Nacion in Costa Rica, and Paul Radu of the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism.

In en effort to create such multi-country collaborations, Michi announced the first regional meeting on journalism for the "triple border" of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, to be held Nov. 25-28 in Ciudad del Este in Paraguay.

Such a conference, offering workshops on investigative journalism, is important, Michi said, as the journalists along the "triple border" have little protection or training opportunities.

Segnini said that as organized crime has become an international business, it's important for journalists to have a change in mentality so they get better at sharing information and working together. For example, she highlighted the need for a digital database of all transnational businesses operating throughout Latin America, or some kind of digital platform that would enable journalists from multiple countries to share information.

The second panel of the day, "Beyond drug trafficking: Investigating organized crime in the Americas," included Monica Gonzalez from the Center for Investigation and Journalistic Information (CIPER) in Chile, Oscar Marinez from ElFaro.net in El Salvador, Ginna Morelos from El Meridiano and the Newsroom Council in Colombia, and Maria Teresa Ronderos from Open Truth in Colombia.

Gonzalez showed maps CIPER had created pinpointing poverty data, crime, and other information. One map, called the "Police's Failure," showed where the most robberies were occurring, but without ever being denounced or investigated.

In the afternoon, Byron Buckley of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers and The Gleaner spoke about the Jamaican media's coverage of the recent Coke case, and Gotson Pierre of Alterpresse in Haiti explained the challenges of covering drug trafficking and organized crime in a country still attempting to rebuild after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Journalists from Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador also expounded on organized crime coverage in Central America. Claudia Mendez of elPeriódico in Guatemala presented a case study of an investigation into the Pavon Prison, known for prisoners' ties to drug trafficking.

Carlos Dada, founder of ElFaro.net in El Salvador, said that journalists in Central America are failing in their primary obligation, which is to understand the organized crime phenomenon, and, he added, covering violence is about more than just "counting bodies." He said the digital newspaper is embarking on a new project, "La Sala Negra," or "The Black Room," to study and report on violence from a regional perspective.

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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