Casals & Associates, a DynCorp International company, as an implementing partner in the Foti Timor-Leste Project, continues to sharpen skills of non-state actors in Timor-Leste in their fight against corruption. The Foti Timor-Leste Project is a Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Threshold Anticorruption Project, funded and administered by USAID in partnership with the Government of Timor-Leste. The non-state actors’ component of the program, among other activities, includes training Timorese journalists to strengthen their investigative reporting skills through a specialized training course.
The overall objective of the seven-month course is to mainstream corruption-related news coverage to encourage mass participation in Timor-Leste’s anticorruption program and raise awareness of anti-corruption activities.
Casals & Associates has carried out four sessions in 2012 with more than 25 participants in each class including editors and reporters from various newspapers, radio and television stations. Attendees are trained to identify compelling stories and how to fearlessly report in a way to generate public debate that helps combat corruption.
Program advisors trained journalists on various topics including data gathering, source verification, meaning and intent of investigative journalism, and the forming of hypotheses to investigate a story. These topics are part of a module tailored to empower editors and reporters to dig deep into corruption stories without solely relying on human sources, gain confidence in their reporting and avoid lawsuits for reporting stories on corruption.
Training sessions aim to be interactive between facilitators and participants. In previous sessions, participants asked critical questions that lead to in-depth explanations and facilitators used real-life situations with illustrations that are applicable within the Timorese context.
Investigative Reporting in Timor-Leste
Investigative reporting was almost nonexistent in the Timor-Leste media in 2010. Many reporters and media outlets were afraid to venture into reporting corruption for fear of legal repercussions, but with investigative journalism training underway, local journalists are growing more confident.
The media landscape, particularly newspapers, is experiencing a dramatic improvement in the number of corruption stories leading to critical questions from other sectors of society. Reporters are going beyond waiting for interviews to writing news headlines that are generating public debates. Not only are there more corruption stories in newspapers and on radio stations, but the quality of news stories have also improved over time.
“News reports are generating discussions on corrupt practices among Timorese from all walks of life. About a year ago there were very few stories about corruption that went beyond vague accusations,” said Brian Pinkowski, Casals & Associates chief of party, Timor-Leste. “Reporters are also making maximum use of the internet to get stories to the public that might be discarded by editors for fear of retaliation. Reports that media institutions find too sensitive are making their way to the internet through reporters who want to keep discussion alive on particular stories they consider newsworthy.”