True European journalism
Slave workers in Europe. Personal tragedies, evil masterminds, fear, violence and threats to journalists. And European questions. All elements for a good story are there. Yet it took Adrian Mogos from Romania two years before he had finally published the story, he already had heard rumours about so long ago. The reason: There was no money for travelling, communication and the extra time that is necessary to do cross-border research.
Now at last the story is documented: Workers from Moldova are trafficked to the Czech Republic, where they work under slave like conditions, in this case picking asparagus. The organised crime structures behind appear to have caused a trail of fear, which was what the team of journalists found whereever they looked.
Adrian Mogos decided to follow the story – across borders and against all obstacles – including the economic ones. The research could finally be done in the course of 2009, because Mogos and his team got a research grant from the newly founded Journalismfund.eu, which aims at supporting exactly this type of cross-border research.
Mogos and his team are not the only journalists, who face such problems. Even editors who support investigative and research intensive stories are often not willing (or do not have the budget) to pay for trips abroad, translations, long-distance calls and so on. While European integration has been evolving over the past decades, media still very much stick to their national focus.
Focusing on a national target group is crucial because of our different media traditions. Our readers simply are used to have their stories presented in one way, that’s what they like. So that’s what they should get.
Yet the research should not be limited to stay within the national frontiers. When stories cross borders – like traffickers and their victims do, and like the vegetables do, that have been picked by the slave workers – then journalists must cooperate with colleagues across borders or travel themselves. Oftentimes networking is necessary because of the knowledge of each national situation. But networking ultimately also gives added value to the editors and publishers. If a team of reporters gathers good evidence each in the field or country, they know best, each of the editors will get more information through the added research to present to the readers. If the story then is published in several countries around the same time, we are heading towards true European journalism.
Time to get inspired to develop it further! Journalismfund.eu tries to do that by making possible stories like the one about labour trafficking through research grants. The grants are distributed according to a set of criteria by an anonymous jury – in order to maintain full journalistic indepence, avoid interference and heighten credibility. The jury consists of highly estimated colleagues, whose identity will be disclosed after their term is over – and when there will be no more interest in trying to influence them one way or the other.
The funding so far has been granted by the freedom of speach foundation Fritt Ord in Norway and by the Media Programme of the Open Society Institute. The Network of European Foundations has kindly supported the idea. Journalismfund.eu is a project by the Belgian Pascal Decroos Fund.
Read more about the slave workers as well as the journalists’ report on how it was done.
Author: Brigitte Alfter
This article appeared firston het blog at EU-Observer