In the fight against financial crime, investigative journalists can play a crucial role: by conducting and publishing investigations, they can inform a wide audience, and can also support the judicial authorities by providing valuable information.
Convinced of the importance of investigative journalists in the fight against ML/FT crimes, the OCWAR-M project organised, from 20 to 23 September 2022, its first training for this audience at the Maison de l’Alerte in Dakar, in partnership with the Platform for Protecting Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF). During four days, seven Senegalese journalists followed an operational training course, conducted by three investigative journalists: Moussa Aksar from L’Evénement and the Norbert Zongo cell, Yann Philippin from Mediapart and Sonia Rolley from Reuters.
Together, the trainers and participants discussed many topics, such as the specificities of investigative journalism, the development of a network of sources, the choice of an investigation topic or the use of secure communication tools.
But this training aimed above all to provide journalists with the necessary keys to investigate financial crimes.
In recent years, many large-scale investigations undertaken by investigative journalists around the world have been based on leaked documents, or “leaks”, which have revealed numerous financial crimes. To be able to process the information contained in the leaked documents, however, it is necessary to know how to read them, or to know which sources to rely on in order to contextualise or complete the information received. The seven journalists thus worked on various practical cases to retrace with the trainers the different stages of a financial investigation. This work was complemented by a presentation by the Senegalese financial intelligence unit (FIU), which came to exchange with the journalists on the missions and functioning of the FIU.
Some of these leaks are made by whistleblowers: a whistleblower is a person who discloses information regarding actions that are unlawful, illicit or against public interest, that he/she has witnessed, especially in the context of his/her work. It is essential for investigative journalists to learn to work with these actors, who can play a central role in revealing financial crimes. Henri Thulliez, Jimmy Kandé and Fadel Barro, representatives of PPLAAF, which has protected several whistleblowers on the continent and contributed to the dissemination of their revelations, exchanged with the journalists on the ways to cooperate with these actors and the need to protect them.
The journalists were also given a presentation by the head of the International Group of Investigative Journalists Network (GIJN) for French-speaking Africa, who shared with the participants the tools made available to journalists by the Network.
The formation of a small group of journalists and the presence of three trainers and representatives of PPLAAF allowed rich exchanges over the four days. The aim was to share experiences and to create a network, both among Senegalese journalists and between participants and trainers. Indeed, collaboration is key to the success of an investigation: working as a consortium allows journalists to pool resources; it also increases their safety; finally, it multiplies the impact of the investigation, as its results are disseminated more widely.
A second training of investigative journalists will be organised by OCWAR-M and PPLAAF in The Gambia in the coming months.