Swedish foreign journalism has been dismantled in recent years. The articles are becoming shorter, the reviews fewer and the foreign newsrooms are increasingly relying on material from foreign news agencies. Not even the great Swedish development assistance is today significantly examined by journalists. That is why we are now starting the Blank Spot Project to monitor the world's white spots, writes journalist Nils Resare.
On the first of July 2011, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were arrested in Ogaden after trying to investigate a Swedish oil company that was suspected of violating human rights. That time it did not work out and the report was never written. The story of oil became a story of ink.
Need eyewitness accounts
For most people, it is obvious that this type of review sometimes has to be carried out. Eyewitness accounts are needed on the spot to dismiss or substantiate a rumor of serious misconduct. You need someone to put on their boots and visit distant places to document what is happening.
Unfortunately, this type of review is done less and less often. In recent years, Swedish foreign journalism has been dismantled, articles are becoming shorter, reviews are fewer and foreign newsrooms are increasingly relying on material from foreign news agencies or on fire brigade calls where the reporter hardly has time to get an idea of what is happening.
Negligence fees for freelancers
Swedish newspapers have made it a routine to pay slave fees to freelancers who put their souls into reporting misconduct and suspected corruption abroad.
In many cases, Swedish media consumers have to make do with the message that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the companies' PR departments choose to tell. Not even the great Swedish development assistance is today significantly examined by journalists.
The question is who will then find out whether Swedish democracy initiatives in Congo are really beneficial, whether Swedish arms exporters pay bribes in Brazil or whether Swedish oil companies violate human rights in Ethiopia. The only times this is done is when Swedish grave reporters have taken their own initiatives to collaborate with foreign journalists or civil society organizations, such as in the case of the Jas bribes or Telia Sonera in Uzbekistan.
Swedish bribes are not detected
According to the head of the National Unit for Corruption, Gunnar Stetler, Swedish companies that bribe in countries with weak legal systems run almost no risk of being exposed. In the isolated cases in which they are discovered, and a preliminary investigation is initiated, it is almost always thanks to the hard work of brave whistleblowers and journalists to unearth the truth.
The same applies if a Swedish company commits an environmental crime, or a violation of human rights. Especially in Africa, Asia or Latin America, which are largely unattended by the Swedish media.
Necessary for democracy
I believe that this type of surveillance is necessary for the development of democracy in Sweden as well as in the rest of the world. With the launch of Blank Spot Project we make an attempt to guard the world's white spots - these include the review of Swedish companies, authorities and organizations that operate in developing countries or in countries with weak legal systems.
We will do this in collaboration with some of the leading digging journalists in Russia, the Balkans in Iraq and a number of African states.
At the same time, we will give these journalists the opportunity to publish on our digital platform. It will increase the impact of their work, even in their home country.
Investigative journalism has a built-in explosive power and is often the most effective method against corruption and abuse of power. But unlike development assistance, it today lacks almost complete funding to be able to be conducted in a systematic way.