National Geographic Brazil publishes Historias Sin Fronteras environmental investigation
National Geographic Brazil has published our cross-border environmental investigation on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s plans to build an international highway that will cut through the most biodiverse region in the Amazon and divide the territories of 10 indigenous communities in Peru and become a bridge for illegal activities of loggers and drug traffickers.
The investigation was conducted by Fabiano Maisonnave, Amazon correspondent for Brazil’s Folha de S. Paulo, and by Alexa Vélez, editor of Mongabay Latam, and Mongabay reporter Vanessa Romo in Peru as part of our Historias Sin Fronteras initiative. With the support of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Department of Science Education, InquireFirst launched the Historias Sin Fronteras cross-border science journalism grants program in Latin America last year.
To tell the visual story, photojournalist Lalo de Almeida traveled with Maisonnave to the Amazon to capture the breathtaking beauty of the untouched region and record the lives of indigenous people who live on the banks of the Moa River. In 2021, de Almeida was named Ibero-American photographer of the year by Picture of the Year (POY) LatAm.
In Peru, photojournalist Sebastián Castañeda took readers to four indigenous communities in the Amazon that are terrorized by drug traffickers who have taken control of the territory.
Maisonnave and de Almeida sailed for more than 16 hours along the Moa River to reach Brazil’s Serra do Divisor National Park and meet with indigenous communities living in and around the park.
On the Peruvian side, Romo and Castañeda traveled along the Abujao River to visit four indigenous communities that live in fear of drug traffickers.
The journalists reported that the highway project is being proposed under the pretext of economic development.
But the project inevitably evokes the ghost of the Interoceanic Highway, a costly road built by the Brazilian company Odebrecht, which was supposed to stimulate commerce between Brazil and Peru and which ended up being investigated for mismanagement and which resulted in the loss of almost 500,000 acres of forests.
Why build a highway in the middle of the Amazon if everything indicates it will result in deforestation, drug trafficking, loss of biodiversity and illegal mining?
Despite all the questions, the project continues. On May 6, two weeks after Historias Sin Fronteras published the cross-border project, the Bolsonaro government renewed its promise to build the international highway.
During the inauguration of a bridge over the Madeira River, where Bolsonaro was greeted by a few thousand supporters, Minister of Infrastructure Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas told the crowd that the Brazil-Peru highway project is one of the government’s infrastructure priorities.
But money, for the time being, does not exist. Senator Márcio Bittar included $8 million in this year’s federal budget for “studies and projects” to expand the highway, but Bolsonaro vetoed the expense amid cuts to balance the budget during the pandemic.
We’ll continue to monitor the situation and provide you with updates.
Our thanks to National Geographic Brasil for publishing our Amazon project and to HHMI’s Department of Science Education for supporting our cross-border journalism on the health and environmental challenges facing Latin America.
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En Común receives funding for second season of science-based programming
We’re thrilled to announce that InquireFirst has received funding for a second season of En Común: conocimiento en voz viva, our radio program on science, health and environment tailored for indigenous communities in Latin America.
With this new round of funding, we’ll be broadcasting 20 weekly, science-based reports on health and environmental issues that affect the indigenous communities in Latin America which form a multicultural mosaic of diverse ethnic identities, ancestral knowledge and cultural values.
En Común shares the voices of indigenous people as our reporters – many of them indigenous journalists working for the first time for a national media organization – record the concerns and the experiences of people in their communities. In our Mosaico de Voces, as we call a segment in each of our programs, we give voice to those who are often not heard.
In Amecameca in the state of México, “the transmission of the programs produced by En Común has allowed us to approach science, health and environment issues from a plain perspective,” said Veronica Galicia Castro, general director of La Voladora Radio.
“This type of project promotes dialogue among members of the communities, it proposes actions that will benefit the community and it challenges people to understand science as an extension of community-building,” Galicia Castro said.
Our program is unique.
Led by co-founder and executive producer Iván Carrillo in collaboration with InquireFirst executive director Lynne Walker, En Común is directed by experienced journalists who are focused on science, health and the environment.
Our weekly programs have focused on a wide range of rarely-reported subjects such as the devastating medical consequences faced by indigenous women who often delay treatment for cancer; technology used by Zapotec farmers in Oaxaca’s Central Valley to capture rainwater as they fight for water rights on their land; and the beneficial role that bats play in the ecological balance.
To reach an international audience, we are collaborating with Massachusetts-based Cultural Survival, which is sharing our program with more than 1,600 affiliated radio stations serving indigenous audiences through its Indigenous Rights Radio programming.
We also formed an alliance with the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and its México partner, Red de Radios Comunitarios de México. We formed a partnership with the Instituto Mexicano de la Radio (IMER). These alliances have helped us reach dozens of community radio stations stretching from Coahuila to Chiapas, from Sonora to Yucatan, as well as reaching listeners in populous Mexico City.
Juan Carlos Reyes Torres, director of radio broadcasters at IMER, said En Común “reaches its audiences with relevant topics on health, science and caring for the environment” and “offers examples of the sound work done by indigenous, rural and urban communities in Mexico.”
“We are looking forward to a second season of this incredible coordinated effort,” Reyes Torres said.
Latin American Science, Health and Innovation Journalism Program
This three-part virtual seminar will focus on urgent health issues such as Covid-19, cancer and HIV/AIDS. Some 100 journalists from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico and the Dominican Republic will attend the high-level seminar which will offer scientific and practical journalism sessions for science writers whose thorough, accurate coverage of health issues is vital to the well-being of people in their countries. The 2020 edition of the MSD/InquireFirst Latin American Science, Health and Innovation Journalism Program is offered in collaboration with the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT.
California State University Fullerton
Investigative Journalism and Government Accountability
Top U.S. journalists will join InquireFirst as speakers at this workshop, which will offer sessions on fact-checking, in-depth investigative reporting and cyber security.
The workshop will equip a team of Latin American journalists with investigative skills to produce deeply reported and carefully fact-checked investigative reports that lead to greater transparency in their countries. The workshop also built professional alliances that encourage journalists to conduct cross-border reporting on high-impact regional investigative stories.
PALO ALTO, Calif. – Latin American science journalists were presented with a host of new professional development opportunities during the Jack F. Ealy Science Journalism