Symposiums-logo

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.

2017 Symposiums

InquireFirst Executive Director S. Lynne Walker will organize and instruct journalism symposiums in 2017 on investigative reporting and safety protocols, digital storytelling and science, health and environment coverage in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The symposiums will be presented in Spanish.

Rocio Gallegos, editorial director of El Diario, looks at a map of Ciudad Juarez marked with the areas of the city where the worst outbreaks of drug violence have occurred. Photo by S. Lynne Walker/InquireFirst

 

May 15-16, 2017
Cuidad Juarez, Mexico
Investigative Journalism & Journalist Safety

During the two-day Investigative Journalism workshop for print, online, radio and television reporters and editors, Walker will focus on the urgent issue of journalist safety.

Walker will meet with the directors of media organizations to discuss the risks they face and ways to conduct investigative coverage without putting reporters’ lives in danger. She will also lead conversations with journalism students at two universities in Ciudad Juarez about the fundamentals of fact-based reporting as well as answering their questions about daily reporting.


imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo

June 12-16, 2017
Quetzaltenango and Guatemala City
Tools & Techniques for Investigative Reporting

In Guatemala City,  journalists will attend a two-day Tools & Techniques workshop led by Walker, who will meet separately with journalists in Quetzaltenango. The program will focus on developing investigative news stories, techniques for finding and interviewing sources, writing investigative reports and the ethics of investigative journalism.


Xinhua/Alamy Stock Photo

June 19-23, 2017
San Pedro Sula and Comayagua, Honduras
Engaging Audiences with In-Depth Reporting

In San Pedro Sula, Walker will lead a two-day workshop on accurate sourcing and producing thorough, balanced investigative journalism that results in greater transparency and good governance. Walker will also conduct intensive reporting workshops in the colonial city of Comayagua.


Shutterstock

August 21-25, 2017
San Diego, California
Digital Storytelling  in the 21st Century

This five-day workshop will focus on multi-platform storytelling as well as the dissemination of information through new media. The program includes discussions with specialists on the issues of accuracy and credibility, libel and other legal questions, reporting ethics and the sourcing of information in electronic media. During training sessions with digital media and social media experts, journalists will engage in hands-on training sessions designed to provide new reporting tools that will allow them to present immediate and accurate information in this new reporting environment. The workshop will be offered in Spanish.


Photo by Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

September 1, 2017
Virtual session from San Diego, CA
Advanced Investigative Journalism 

This virtual session focuses on every aspect of investigative journalism — from idea to planning to reporting and writing and finally to follow-up stories.  More than 100 journalists will be attending the session from Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Durango, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas, as well as the border cities of Nuevo Laredo and Tamaulipas.


Shutterstock

September 25-29, 2017
Asunción, Paraguay
Investigative Reporting & Access to Information

Journalists in Asuncion, Caacupe and Itaugua, Paraguay, will attend a three-day workshop instructed by InquireFirst Executive Director Lynne Walker on investigative reporting and techniques for accessing information for in-depth reporting.
Paraguay is readying for party primaries in December and a presidential election in April 2018. Walker will meet with journalists at Asuncion’s leading news organizations about access to information and government accountability. She will also meet with government officials and employees to discuss stategies for responsible disclosure of federal and local government activities.


October 25-30, 2017
San Francisco, California
Bridging Science and Societies

InquireFirst and Mexico City-based Fundacion Ealy Ortiz will bring together 50 science journalists for a October 25 professional development workshop to present practical, hands-on training sessions to sharpen reporting skills on the most pressing science, health and environmental issues in the Western Hemisphere.

The 2017 Latin American Edition of the Jack F. Ealy Science Journalism Workshop workshop is designed to promote excellence in science, health and environmental coverage in Latin America and the Caribbean and to underscore the need for deeply reported science coverage by local and regional media organizations.

This year’s workshop is being organized as part of the World Conference of Science Journalists 2017 (WCSJ) in San Francisco, California. Journalists attending the workshop will also participate in the WCSJ, which will host 1,200 reporters and editors from 70 countries.


LE PICTORIUM/Alamy Stock Photo

November 9-11, 2017
La Paz, Bolivia
Investigative Journalism in the Digital Age

Reporters and editors in the capital city of La Paz will attend a 14-hour workshop instructed by Walker on Investigative Journalism in the Digital Age. The workshop, organized by the Fundacion para el Periodismo, is being offered to journalists studying for a Master of Journalism degree.

 

Shutterstock

December 7-8, 2017
México City, México
Technology, Innovation & Journalism

Executive Director Lynne Walker will participate as a trainer in a México City TechCamp organized by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs.

The TechCamp aims to increase the digital literacy, media safety and investigative journalism skills of almost 60 participants from México, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The participants are working as independent journalists, as part of investigative units or in traditional media outlets on issues where they face censorship or physical harm.

 

Investigative-Tagline