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KNIGHT CENTER NEWS

Brazil’s Abraji has grown into one of the world's top investigative journalism groups


The Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism (Abraji) concluded its annual congress last July, showing that it has become one of the world’s best and largest investigative journalism groups. Today, with support from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, what was only a dream for a handful of Brazilian journalists in 2002 has been made real.

The dream was to create a solid organization of reporters and editors interested in investigative journalism. This year’s congress, by its size and quality, showed that Abraji is not only solid, but it is one of the best organizations dedicated to investigative journalism worldwide.

“Abraji is a reality today because the Knight Center had the foresight to satisfy this demand that Brazilian journalists had,” Abraji President Fernando Rodrigues said. “Abraji certainly owes a lot to the Knight Center, and today we can proudly say that more than 4,000 journalists have taken part in our courses, workshops, seminars, and congresses.”

Nearly 700 journalists, students, and journalism professors gathered last week in Anhembi Morumbi University’s modern facilities for Abraji’s 5th International Congress on Investigative Journalism, which included dozens of panel discussions, workshops, and investigative journalism training sessions

At least half of the attendees were professional journalists, representing 24 of Brazil’s 27 states. Among them were also 98 presenters, several coming from the United States, Europe, and other Latin American countries.

One of the international presenters was Pulitzer Prize-winner (2004) Lowell Bergman, who works for The New York Times and Frontline, PBS’s investigative journalism series. Bergman, who has also won several Emmys and whose exploits were recreated in the film “The Insider,” was one of the founders of the Center for Investigative Reporting (created in 1977) and is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

For an idea of the relative size of Abraji’s conference, the annual gathering of U.S.-based Investative Reporters and Editors (IRE) united 700 journalists last year and 900 this year. IRE is the world’s largest investigative journalism group and was the inspiration for Abraji.

Abraji has an impressive 1,800 associates, however the number of paying members is still less than 500. One of its priorities is to convince a majority to contribute in order to guarantee the group’s financial sustainability.

Unlike the United States, Brazilian journalists are unaccustomed to participating in independent professional organizations like this one. For this reason, the dream of a strong and consolidated Abraji, as it is today, seemed very distant when the group was created in 2002.

“Sponsoring Abraji was our first project,” relates Rosental Calmon Alves, founding director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. “The center began operating June 1, 2002. On June 2, drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro killed my friend and colleague Tim Lopes, a brilliant investigative reporter for TV Globo. The Knight Center’s first initiative was to organize a seminar in Rio de Janeiro, in August, which was the inspiration for creating Abraji.”

“After that first seminar, in the Rio de Janeiro Journalists’ Union’s auditorium, we created an email discussion list, where we discussed the theme of the next event, the one that would lead a group of journalists to create Abraji. This founding event was a seminar on covering organized crime, with 155 journalists, held at the University of São Paulo’s journalism school, on Dec. 7, 2002,” Professor Alves said.

With support from the Knight Center, Abraji spread the use of Computer-Assisted Reporting (CAR) techniques, which had previously been the province of a privileged few. Journalists began to generate a significant number of investigative reports using the CAR skills that were taught in Abraji training sessions.

“The creation of Abraji helped improve the practice of journalism in Brazil, and the Knight Center can celebrate and be proud of having helped make this dream a reality,” Abraji's Rodrigues said.

“We take great pride in having supported such a successful project,” Alves said. “But we also take pride in seeing Abraji become increasingly independent and self-sustainable, making our support less and less important for its operations and growth.”

Abraji is part of a network of journalism organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean that were created or strengthened with support from the Knight Center. These organizations include: the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET, Mexico), the Argentine Journalism Forum (FOPEA), the Newsroom Council (CdR, Colombia), the Paraguayan Journalists’ Forum (FOPEP), and the Provincial Journalists Network (Peru).

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin was launched in 2002 by professor Rosental Calmon Alves. Thanks to generous grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the center has assisted thousands of journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean. For more information, contact the Knight Center’s program manager, Jennifer Potter-Miller at jpottermiller at mail.utexas.edu or +1 512 471-1391.



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