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Corruption Watch: How worthy is investigative journalism?

Investigative journalism remains a vital component in uncovering hidden truths in Ghana, but funding is sparse, says Shamima Muslim, founder of Women in Media Africa.

It is why Muslim, along with other top journalists in the country, established the Africa Center for International Law & Accountability (ACILA)’s Investigative Journalism Fund (AIJF), an initiative powered by ACILA. Its purpose is to offer financial support to selected investigative journalists who report on thought-provoking, in-depth stories spanning the country.

“In our part of the world, it is critical to have a flourishing investigative journalism sector,” Muslim told Joy FM’s Daniel Dadzie on the Super Morning Show Wednesday. “Without [investigative journalism], it will cost us.”

Muslim advocated that investigative journalism requires reporters who have specialized skills to accurately tell stories on money laundering, drug trafficking, and more specifically corruption. But she says investing in it is expensive and risky.  

“Corruption has become the normalized word. It isn’t shocking people as it should,” she said, adding that without the funding to properly highlight corruption, exploitation will run more rampant. She acknowledged that in many cases, media organizations are unwilling to invest in investigative reporting because it is a long and strenuous process. Months could go by investigating a story, only to end up with nothing in the end, she mentioned.

Read more: Investigative journalism: The tension between privacy and public interest

To garner funding in the sector, “we have to answer the question of whether there is a case to be made for investigative journalism, especially in a developing country like ours,” Muslim said.

Kwetey Nartey, an investigative journalist with Joy News, says he’s fortunate to work at a media house (The Multimedia Group) that provides funding for his reporting, but he says the path to garner a budget at his organization was not easy.

He says he had to fund his own reporting on cocaine being sold in Ghana. After he won an award for the story, it raised the eyebrows of upper management, where they eventually created a budget for it.

“Funds can be provided, you just need to justify why you think it is an important story to cover,” Nartey said. “But when you speak to other journalists, they tell you it is very hard to get the funding needed to cover the stories.”

Nartey continued: “Here in Ghana, if you are not supported by your media organization, it will be hard to invest in.”

At a forum on media and corruption” organized by the Media Foundation for West Africa last month, ACILA’s Executive Director, William Nyarko urged fellow media professionals to consider the facts: in many cases, journalists at media houses cannot follow up on critical investigative reports because of uncertainty. Left ignored, it could leave power-abusing duty bearers unscathed.

“It is the responsibility of media houses to provide these funds, but the reality is, many media houses don’t have the means,” said Nyarko, adding that, “in democracy, people rely on the media to make informed decisions, so there needs to be more journalists who can accurately report on public accountability issues.”  

Dr. Zakaria Tanko agrees. As a lawyer and lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Journalism, he advocates that the fund is not an option – it is necessary.

“Corruption is becoming so pervasive in our society and we need to keep the spotlight on exposing it in all its forms,” he said. “A fund such as the one being proposed will cure the issue of lack of resources and will see an increasing number of journalists venturing into investigative work. This will go a long way in the fight against corruption.”

To apply for AIJF, visit here.

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