Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Wits University to Host Global Investigative Journalism Conference 2017 - Coordinator

The Coordinator of the University of Witwatersrand Journalism Department Program,

has announced that the institution would be hosting the 2017 edition of the Global Investigative Journalism Conference, GIJC.

In an interview after the 2016 edition of the African Investigative Journalism Conference that took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 7-9 November, 

Elles Van Gelder said African journalists must continue to be trained, as one of the means of building strong democracies the world over.
She also explained the reasons for the choice of issues addressed during the AIJ conference. Excepts:

AIJC 2016
How this whole idea of African investigative journalists’ conference come about?

The conference has been running for quite a while and was first called Power Reporting. I came in two years ago in this program organized by the Journalism Department of the Witwatersrand University. 

We felt that we need to train journalists in investigations. We did not want to do that just for South African journalists and so we opened it up for African journalists.

Why focus on investigative journalism?

I think there is a lot to investigate in South Africa and Africa as a whole. There are a number of skills that we need as investigative journalists that might not be gotten in schools. There a lot of journalists, experienced journalists but it does not necessarily mean that they are also good for example in financial journalism, knowing how to read company accounts, doing research using the computer and so on. 

So we are trying to give the skills that they would not readily get in their schools. We need to build strong democracies all over the world and how do you do that,

 by researching and making sure you can hold all those in power accountable, hold businesses accountable. That is what we are trying to do by bringing together this new generation of African investigative journalists.

What guided the choice of subjects for the conference?
A lot came from our experience having run this conference for several or at least 11 years. We have been listening to the journalists who come here every year tell us what they need. We discussed much with African journalists and then see how decide what the program is going to be. People have proposed financial investigations; others have proposed that they want to keep their sources secure. That’s why we brought an expert who discussed about encryption of your cell phone, computers etc. 

Its listening to what the journalists are asking for. We also try to get a good number of African journalists share the stories that they have been working on, to inspire their colleagues and share what is happening in different countries. 

We also use the opportunity to network. There is a lot of collaboration coming out of the conference. I won’t be surprised if next year we have collaboration from francophone Africa. Networking and training guided our choice of issues discussed.

You must have had difficulties organising such a successful conference?
We have a great team and everyone does his job. I am in charge of the program but our colleagues too are really of help. It’s a big challenge to host 300 people from 28 countries. To get them into and out of SA is not easy. We also have the issue of visa problems. At this session, two persons from Nigeria could not come because they were refused visas or the visas were not issued on time. 

The future of the AIJC conference for 2017?
2017 is going to be big because we will be partnering together with the Global Investigative Journalism Conference. 

GIJC. We won the bid to host that conference. The conference is going to be as three times as big. We would not just be hosting African journalists but journalists from all over the world.

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