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Conspiracy and power

Regardless to the many dangers it involves, investigative journalism always played a key role in dismantling the dark side of politics. However, governments are imposing new legislations leading to electronic totalitarianism. The 2018 Logan Symposium aims to resist this practice.

 

Marcella Via

 

Politics are built around a complex net of power dynamics. As politicians turned out to be helpless in providing justice, journalists became the ones telling people the stories that they would, or would not, like to know.

Thanks to passion and curiosity, investigative journalists dive themselves in matters of corruption, money laundry and criminal organisations, where the distinction between legality and illegality becomes blurred. This is why journalism has become a very dangerous profession in too many countries of the world.

For example, the Azeri journalist Khadija Ismayilova was able to dismantle the multibillion-dollar schemes of criminal networks involving the former Egypt president Hosni Mubarak in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The journalist reported that after the uprising, the Mubarak’s team started cashing in its wealth and hiding it behind a shell company incorporated in Panama.

However, the company’s ownership mysteriously changed and two people from Azerbaijan where named in the documents. In this occasion, Ismayilova was able not only to find the names of the two Azeri people, but also to connect them to Hussain Salem, Mubarak’s close aide, who was previously behind the shall company. Yet, the Azeri journalist writes that with the release of Mubarak from prison, “the only response to the investigations was the arrest and harassment of journalists”.

Indeed, a problem faced by journalists all around the world is that there is no system aimed to protect them. As reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists, in 2018 there were 60 journalists missing. The statistics report that, among them, 14 journalists disappeared in Mexico, 9 in Iraq, 7 in Russia and 6 in Syria. Statistics from 2017 provided by RadioFreeEurope showed that during that year a total of 65 media workers were killed, 326 imprisoned and 54 were held hostage.

According to this source, the deadliest countries for journalists are Syria, with 12 deaths, Mexico with 11, Afghanistan with 9, Iraq with 8 and the Philippines with 4. Additionally, the countries where journalists where held hostage the most in 2017 are Syria with 29 cases, Yemen with 12, Iraq with 11 and Ukraine with 2.

Moreover, during the last decade, data leaks have been very useful in improving the understanding of important international political dynamics, such as the Iraq War. Nevertheless, British and American authorities are striking back, implementing a wave of surveillance legislations that not only threaten the very existence of investigative journalism, but also leads to electronic totalitarianism.

This is why the Centre of Investigative Journalism is launching “Conspiracy”, the third international Logan Symposium. The event aims to bring together a global community of engaged investigative journalists, hackers, whistle-blowers, artists and experts to discuss issues of fake news and post-truth journalism.

The event also aims to ask real questions about how propaganda finds its way through mass media, while the funds for real investigations are dwelling. It is within this scenario that conspiracy theories have become more widespread than ever. At the same time, it is worth to ask if the allegation of conspiracy is also used to silence legitimate arguments.

According to the organizers, “Conspiracy is about the growing machinery of surveillance and censorship and what might be our response to it. New anti-terror laws gift governments with unprecedented powers to spy on the electronic data of their citizens.”

They wonder if people should believe in radical transparency and sophisticated electronic techniques with which to evade surveillance or to resort to be more careful about what is said instead, going through the risk of official propaganda and subterfuge.

The event proposes innovative tactics, tools and strategies to reinvent investigative journalism by building a new global network of investigators faced by all the sides of conspiracy. It will provide a programme of talks, workshops, documentary film screenings, artwork exhibitions and specially commissioned installations.

“Conspirancy”  will take place from the 19 to the 20 of October, at Goldsmith, University of London, 37 Laurie Grove, London SE14 6NH. On Friday 19 October, registration will take place from 8 am. to 9 am. and the event will last from 9 am. to 10:30 pm. On Saturday 20 October, it will be possible to register from 9 am. to 9:30 am. and the event will take place from 9:30 am. to 5:30 pm.

For further information, please visit twitter cjlogan, @cijournalism or email symposium@tcij.org

(Photos: Pixabay)

 

 

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