La Paz, Bolivia

Walker and InquireFirst media partner Fundación para el Periodismo team to offer training to investigative journalists in Bolivia

LA PAZ, Bolivia – These were the last days of class for a committed group of journalists who had been studying and reporting and writing all year to earn a masters-level certificate in investigative journalism.

InquireFirst Executive Director Lynne Walker, who worked for several weeks with the journalists on line, traveled to La Paz to instruct them on finding sources and on organizing and writing their stories.

The journalists were working on a wide range of important subjects as part of their final project and thesis. One journalist was working on a profile of a mafia family that controlled bars and table dance operations where human trafficking, prostitution and drug trafficking occurred. Another focused on the city’s lack of attention to crumbling infrastructure and change in climatic conditions that resulted in a dramatic decrease in water supply. A third was investigating the brutal mistreatment of domestic and wild animals and lack of enforcement due to nonexistent government funding.

At the conclusion of the Oct. 23-Nov. 11, 2017, workshop, journalists wrote Walker about all they had learned. “Thank you so much for sharing with us your values that we as journalists should put into practice every day,” La Paz journalist Susana Lopez wrote on Facebook.

The journalists’ projects were the result of an innovative program by the Fundación para el Periodismo (FPP), a nonprofit organization formed in La Paz in 2009 to train the next generation of journalists in Bolivia.

The Fundación, an InquireFirst media partner headed by prominent journalist Renan Estenssoro, has offered media training on a range of subjects since its inception. Now, the Fundación has expanded its outreach to journalists and media organizations by offering funding for investigative projects.

For the past year, the Fundación has provided funding on a project-by-project basis to two news organizations in La Paz: Agencia de Noticias Fides and Pagina Siete, both online publications.

The program is titled “Spotlight,” said Estenssoro, and it is supporting organizations like Pagina Siete that shine a light on important, but unreported stories in Bolivia.

In the case of Pagina Siete, “this media organization is shaping its profile as an investigative organization,” Estenssoro said.

The Fundación’s work was highlighted in a daily bulletin from the American Press Institute newsletter. Read more about the Fundación’s work:

San Francisco, Calif.

InquireFirst Executive Director Lynne Walker (left) moderates a panel at the Jack F. Ealy Science Journalism Workshop with independant science journalist Sergio Vicke (center) and Enrique Bustamante, director of Mexico City-based Fundación Ealy Ortiz A.C. Photo courtesy of El Universal/Germán Espinosa

Jack F. Ealy Science Journalism Workshop in San Francisco underscores need for regional science journalism network

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The 2017 Latin America edition of the Jack F. Ealy Science Journalism Workshop sparked a commitment by more than 70 journalists from 15 countries to begin building a regional science journalism network.

The need for a network, which has long been a priority for workshop organizers Fundación Ealy Ortiz A.C. of México City and InquireFirst of San Diego, Calif., was underscored by seasoned science journalists who are looking beyond their borders to cover regional science, public health and environmental issues.

As global issues such as climate change, Zika virus and water shortages increasingly dominate the news, Latin American and Caribbean journalists agreed that their stories would be strengthened by collaboration across international borders to provide audiences a regional perspective.

InquireFirst and Fundación Ealy Ortiz A.C. organized and directed the 2017 Latin American edition of the Jack F. Ealy Science Journalism Workshop on October 25, 2017, in San Francisco, Calif., in collaboration with the World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ).

The 2017 international science journalism forum marked the first time the WCSJ held its biennial conference in the United States. Almost 1,400 science journalists from 70 countries attended the Oct. 26-30 WCSJ conference.

During the Ealy workshop, Ivan Carrillo, anchor of the Los Observadores program on México ’s TV Azteca and frequent contributor to National Geographic, discussed the need for a regional network with fellow panelists Valeria Román, cofounder of the Science Journalists Network of Argentina; Emiliano Rodríguez Mega, independent science journalist in México who is studying for a master’s degree in science journalism in New York; and Luisa Massarani, of Brazil, the Latin America and Caribbean coordinator for SciDev.Net.

In another session, reporters and editors participated in an interactive session on mining hidden science stories led by science journalists Debbie Ponchner of Costa Rica and Federico Kukso of Argentina.

Journalists discussed separating scientific fact from fiction during a panel moderated by Lynne Friedmann, editor of ScienceWriters magazine. Friedmann was joined on the panel by Nora Bar, science editor at La Nación in Argentina, and science and environment writer Mariana León, with El Financiero Bloomberg in México City.

In a panel moderated by InquireFirst Executive Director Lynne Walker, Mexican freelance journalist Sergio Vicke and Fundación Ealy Ortiz Director Enrique Bustamante discussed sustainable economic models for online science journalism organizations.

During a luncheon presentation sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, three prominent conservation scientists — Rob Wallace, Nuria Bernal Hoverud and James Aparicio — talked about their work at Identidad Madidi in Bolivia to explore and demonstrate the biodiversity in the South American country.

As part of this year’s Jack F. Ealy workshop, 15 science journalists received Ealy fellowships to attend the San Francisco workshop and the WCSJ. The journalists are working at media organizations in México , Costa Rica, Colombia, Perú, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Jamaica.

Fundación Ealy Ortiz A.C.  is a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 by Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, publisher and owner of the daily newspaper El Universal in México . Since its inception, the Fundación has awarded more than 1,500 scholarships to journalists at more than 500 news organizations in Latin America to attend workshops the organization has conducted in Latin America, Europe and the United States.

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Asunción, Paraguay

Executive Director Lynne Walker travels to Paraguay to meet with journalists, officials on access to information law

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay – It’s been two years since Paraguay’s access to information law went into effect and reporters say they are often turned away when they use the law to request documents.

As Paraguay becomes the latest country in Latin America to adopt an access law, some reporters say their requests have been denied and they have been asked why they want the information, a violation of the spirit of the law.

InquireFirst Executive Director Lynne Walker traveled to Paraguay in September 2017 to meet with reporters, editors and government officials about implementation of the law.

During meetings at leading newspapers – ABC Color, Ultima Hora and La Nación — as well as radio and TV stations, some reporters said government officials have delivered requested documents within the 15-day legal time limit, but others said their requests for information had been turned down without explanation.

Walker was in Paraguay on September 28, UNESCO’s International Day for Universal Access. During her visit, she met with Vice Minister of Justice Weldon Black and Controller General Jose Garcia to discuss best practices for implementing the law.

InquireFirst Executive Director Lynne Walker talks with journalists and government officials in Caacupé, Paraguay, about best practices for the access to information law which went into effect in September 2015. Photo by Desirée Esquivel

Elida Acosta Davalos, the federal government’s director of access to public information, acknowledged that historically “Paraguay has had a secretive culture” and said, “we are pushing people to use the law.”

“If people don’t ask for information, what’s going to happen? We are going to return to that secretive culture again,” she said.

Since the law went into effect in September 2015, more than 4,000 requests for information have been filed online, with 83 percent resolved. But the budget for Vice Minister of Justice Black’s office is only $20,000 a year.

Journalists in Caacupé, Paraguay, a two-hour drive from the capital of Asunción, said government officials were not trained to handle requests before the law went into effect so they’re often in a quandary about how to respond. Because the officials don’t know how much information to release, they err on the side of denying requests, reporters said.

Walker met with about 50 officials and employees of FOIA units in government information and communication offices and engaged in a spirited Q&A session.

She also talked about fake news, ethics and access to information during a live interview on the program “El Péndulo” conducted by Carlos Peralta in Asunción.

Walker noted that four countries in Latin America and the Caribbean still do not have access to information laws – Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Costa Rica – and she talked about the fundamental importance of an access law to strengthening democracy.

During her week-long visit to Asunción, Walker also instructed a six-hour investigative journalism class at the Universidad Autónoma de Asunción which was attended by about 60 journalists, journalism students and law students.

SciDev.Net

 

SciDev.Net is the world’s leading source of reliable and authoritative news, views and analysis about science and technology for global development.

Its mission is to use independent journalism to help individuals and organisations apply science to decision-making in order to drive equitable, sustainable development and poverty reduction. SciDev.Net is part of the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) - a not-for-profit organisation that improves people’s lives worldwide by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment.

SciDev.Net operates editorially independently from CABI with its content overseen by an independent Editorial Advisory Committee whose role is to ensure our editorial independence protocol is adhered to.  The protocol is available on request.

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