Barta1, an online news outlet based in Manado City, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, recently completed an investigative journalism training for journalists in Manado and surrounding cities. On 3-4 August, twenty-one journalists from Sangihe, Manado, Ternate, and Gorontalo in North Sulawesi participated in a two-day workshop, supported by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network through an Asia-Pacific media grant.
Six of 21 participating journalists were from Barta1. Their reports will focus on investment in the nickel and gold mining sector in Halmahera, North Sulawesi and Gorontalo. The other 15 were from local news outlets: Manadokita (daily newspaper), Actadurna (weekly magazine), Mongabay Indonesia, Fajarmalut. Bibirpasifik, Sulawesion,com, beritakawanua, detikmanado, Benua.id, Pusaka Daily, BeritaSatu, Tivatimur.com, Kabarpulau, Poskomalut, and Hari Manado.
“This training is very important because there is a capacity gap between Jakarta and local journalists. This training can increase the capacity of local journalists in North Sulawesi, Halmahera and Gorontalo so that they are able to carry out investigative coverage, especially related to environmental issues, as well as balance news coverage which is often dominated by Jakarta issues,” said Budy Nurgianto from Barta1, a media trainer and senior journalist who has been involved in several investigative reporting related to nickel and palm oil mining issues in Halmahera, Papua, and Sulawesi.
In this training, he focused on aspects of physical safety and discussed strategies for dealing with legal threats. He also shared his experience on how to hunt for data based on his experience in reporting for Tempo, the leading investigative magazine in the country.
“The involvement of journalists in monitoring the natural resources sector can encourage the public to participate in monitoring government policies related to investments in the sector,” said Zainal Abidin, a senior journalist and Tempo fact-checker who was one of the trainers at the workshop.
Abidin, who has written several stories on nickel mining in Konawe and North Konawe, Southeast Sulawesi, provided tips on planning an investigative story, analyzing data and interviewing experts. He pointed out that one of the valuable lessons that participants can take from this training is that investigative reporting on the environment requires diligence, thoroughness and accuracy.
Participants were also trained by Finda Muhtar, senior journalist and editor-in-chief of Beritamanado, an online news site based in North Sulawesi that is a member of the Indonesian Cyber Media Association (AMSI). Her outlet is listed as one of seven in North Sulawesi that has implemented data journalism in the newsroom.
She showed journalists how to use various data journalism techniques (mining, processing, and visualization) and shared some visualization tools that could help them illustrate their data.
At the workshop, Jull Takaliuang, Executive Director of South Sulawesi Suara Nurani Minaesa Foundation – a local anti-corruption watchdog – spoke to participating journalists about the vital role of media in monitoring investment in the environment sector. Participants also heard from the North Sulawesi Environment Agency.
Secretary of the North Sulawesi Environment Agency R.M Senduk offered an overview of policies and law enforcement in environmental monitoring. When supervising mining activities, local governments need to ensure compliance with environmental permits and compliance with laws and regualations, he said.
“This training gave me a new understanding, especially related to regulations in monitoring of mining. It turns out that there are lots of regulations governing this sector, from the central to the regional levels,” said Amelia Zakaria, a workshop participant who is a journalist from an environmental media outlet based in Gorontalo City, Benua.Id.
Following this training, participants will submit their investigative story proposals to the editorial team at Barta1, to be considered for funding in the next phase of the program, also funded by EJN.
“For local journalists, this opportunity is very useful, especially to increase their capacity in investigative journalism to produce in-depth reports on the environment for public interest,” said Agustinus Hari, Barta1 editor-in-chief.
“We are very happy to be able to partner with Barta1 and support their project to improve the skills of journalists in eastern Indonesia, who do not have access to as many opportunities as those in much larger and populated islands such as Java and Sumatera. We look forward to seeing more in-depth investigative stories produced in this region as a result of these project activities,” said Florence Armein, EJN’s senior content coordinator for Indonesia.
All investigative reports produced under this program will be published by participants’ respective media outlets.
Following the investigative journalism training and reports, Barta1 is organizing an environmental jamboree that is expected to increase awareness of environmental issues and serve as a forum where policymakers, journalists, NGOs, and students meet to discuss environmental issues and exchange perspectives.
Barta will also compile all investigative reports into a book that is expected to increase literacy on impacts of nickel and gold mining investments in the region, which will be distributed to local government agencies, community and regional libraries, university campuses, and NGOs.
Banner image: Workshop participants in Manado City, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, at Barta1's investigative journalism training / Credit: Ady Putong for Barta1.