Facts Matter: The Panama Papers Make the Case for Quality Journalism

It has not been all bad news for ethical journalism in 2016. Far from it. One of the most stunning examples of why the world needs quality and fact-based journalism was the leak and publication of the Panama Papers in April.

This was one of the biggest acts of journalism in recent history involving more than 370 journalists from 80 countries and covering 100 leading news media organisations.

The papers revealed corruption, secrecy and double-dealing in public life and exposed how political leaders and corporate bosses from across the world were involved in secret offshore business deals – some of them financing war and terrorism.

Investigative journalists worked together to analyse secret documents from 11.5 million files held by the global offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICFJ) in the United States.

They co-ordinated the analysis and distillation of the material with its large network of international partners, including Le Monde, the Guardian and the BBC and leading news outlets on five continents.

It was an enormous task which no single media organisation could have handled alone, and it was paid for largely by philanthropic and charitable foundations, including Adessium Foundation, Open Society Foundations, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Fritt Ord Foundation, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the Ford Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts and Waterloo Foundation.

This is the reality of modern journalism: an increasing dependence on donor funding and public support for public interest journalism.

Main photo: Panama Papers by Erik Cleves Kristensen (Flickr – CC BY 2.0)


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