EJN Trains 12 East African Environmental Journalists to Follow the Money

people seated indoors
EJN Trains 12 East African Environmental Journalists to Follow the Money

Late last year, EJN kicked off the third phase of its East Africa Wildlife Journalism Project by selecting journalists from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, DR Congo, South Sudan and Rwanda for a nine-month-long training program to conduct financial investigations to help combat illegal wildlife trafficking and other environmental crimes.

The journalists selected were: 

  • Risdel Kasasira, Uganda – EA Centre for Investigative Journalism
  • Yohani Gwangway, Tanzania – Mwanzo TV
  • Kei Emmanuel, South Sudan – The Northern Daily
  • Abdalla Bakari, Tanzania – The Guardian
  • Peter Ongera, Kenya – Unreported Kenya
  • Pauline Ongaji, Kenya – The Nation
  • Nadine Umuhoza, Rwanda – The Bridge Magazine
  • Linda Koskei, Kenya – K24 TV
  • Pauline Kairu, Kenya – The East African
  • Salome Kitomari, Tanzania – Nipashe 
  • Culton Scovia, Uganda – BBS TV
  • Gillian Nantume, Uganda – Nation Media Group 

The workshop was held at Burch’s Resort in Naivasha, Kenya, adjacent to the Lake Naivasha, from November 27-30, 2023. Over several days, participants delved into the intricacies of wildlife crime reporting, digital and physical safety, and the tools participants could employ to investigate these issues in a more in-depth way.

The Director and CEO of the Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI), Dr Patrick Omondi, set the tone with his opening remarks, emphasizing the role of wildlife research in combating wildlife crime. 

Benon Oluka, EJN’s East Africa Investigative Editor, urged participants to connect the dots, tracing the entirety of the wildlife crime supply chain. 

Saitoti Maika, Director-General of the Financial Reporting Centre in Kenya, stressed the serious impact of these financial crimes, and talked about government tools for following the money in environmental crimes.

A man at a lectern presenting with a screen next to him
Saitoti Maika reminded journalists: "When looking for a financial poacher, it's not necessarily the man with the gun. Look at the cold data."/ Credit: Stellar Murumba.

This phase of the project, funded by USAID and the Department of Interior (DOI), is being led in collaboration with the Centre for Global Advancement (C4GA). C4GA’s founder, Amanda Gore, who specializes in supporting litigation and multi-jurisdictional financial investigations, offered tips to participants, many of whom will seek to trace assets and track money laundering and corruption over the next several months.

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Amanda Gore spoke about how  how journalists can uncover wildlife crime using digital forensics / Credit: Stellar Murumba.

Google News Lab teaching fellow Ken Macharia got journalists to try their hand at open-source intelligence (OSINT) tools such as Google Pinpoint and Google’s Reverse Image search, which could aid them in their upcoming investigations.

Kei Immanuel Duku, a journalist from South Sudan, said he learned a lot from the workshop. 

“I come from a country where information is very scarce: you call a leader for information, but they don’t give you [information] that you want. Pinpoint is one of those tools I could use to get hidden information especially for climate-related stories. It was a richly packed training,” he shared. 

EJN’s Special Projects editor Sam Schramski shared insights on collaborative, cross-border investigations, as journalists will, in coming months, work with their counterparts in Asia to report on both the supply and demand side of the illegal trade.

Experts Sally Amadi of the Asset Recovery Agency, Kenya, Ricardo Forrester of Freeland Foundation, an organization working to strengthen enforcement, laws and transboundary cooperation to combat wildlife trafficking, Edward Phiri from the Lusaka Agreement Taskforce and Professor Peter Kimani, from Aga Khan University’s Graduate School of Media and Communications also shared their expertise with workshop participants over the four days. Stellar Murumba, social media specialist and trainer for the East Africa project, documented the sessions through photos and video. 

a woman speaks while gesticulating
Sally Amadi of the Asset Recovery Agency spoke about the importance of establishing the source when investigating money laundering cases / Credit: Stellar Murumba.
a man at a lectern looks at a screen while presenting
Edward Phiri, wildlife conservation expert and director of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, commended EJN's efforts to train journalists to help close the gaps in wildlife crime investigations / Credit: Stellar Murumba.

 

Journalists had the opportunity to refine their story pitches and land on concrete ideas to pursue after the workshop concluded. They also visited the WRTI’s hippo campsite on a field trip, where they learned more about local conservation efforts and methods to curb poaching.

During the field trip, WRTI Senior Research Scientist, Jared Asenwa Lumbasi, explained that they aim to breed 1 million fingerlings of tilapia and mud fish per year, and reintroduce them to Lake Naivasha to discourage poaching of fish at the adjacent Lake Nakuru, which is a national park. “We do not want people straying into the lake to fish in Nakuru because it is a park, and the fish there is to be consumed by pelicans and cormorants,” he said.

“This workshop was different in many ways compared to the other activities we have carried out since 2019,” said Kiundu Waweru, project manager. “We are pleased to be supporting these 12 journalists for the next several months. As they work on their investigations, they will also learn from a series of virtual and in-person workshops,” he added. 

Earlier this month, the EJN East Africa team held the first of these two virtual workshops via Zoom, which brought together 24 participants including the selected East African grantees and journalists from countries such as India, Pakistan, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, whom they will be collaborating with to expose the environmental and wildlife crimes they are investigating. Participants learned strategies for conducting investigations through social media and tips on which case studies and resources they could utilize during the course of their work.

The collaborative effort between EJN, and the participating organisations underscores the collective commitment to addressing environmental challenges in East Africa.

As part of this phase of the project, three media outlets—Infonile from Uganda, Tanzania Standard Newspapers, and South Sudan’s Juba Echo TV—have been selected to receive grants that will enable them to collaborate with Asian journalists and produce in-depth investigations into environmental crimes. 


Banner image: Participants at the workshop / Credit: Stellar Murumba. 

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