They have exposed the Azerbaijani president’s use of tax havens to steer business to his daughters; revealed widespread fraud in Peru’s powerful fishing industry; dissected an $80 million racket behind a government contract in Chile; and documented extensive abuse of force by Canadian police using stun guns.
They are four independent investigative journalists in three continents, all women, doing the painstaking, unglamorous and often dangerous work of following the paper trails, finding the patterns and asking the questions others ignore.
They are also the newest members of The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Meet Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan), Milagros Salazar (Peru), Francisca Skoknic (Chile) and Sandra Bartlett (Canada/USA).
“These are accomplished journalists with the right mix of drive, guts and skill to enhance the ICIJ,” said ICIJ director Gerard Ryle.
“I am very proud to welcome them aboard, and I am sure everyone will look forward to working with them.”
Isjmayilova, Salazar, Skoknic and Bartlett join colleagues in more than 60 countries who collaborate on in-depth, cross-border investigations. Recent work by ICIJ journalists include the plundering of marine resources, the flourishing black market in conflict minerals in South America and the under-regulated global trade of recycling dead humans.
Here is, in brief, what you need to know about the new members:
This year she published a series of hard-hitting stories that revealed the lucrative businesses of Azerbaijan’s ruling family, including how the president’s daughters owned shares in six gold mines given to them by a decree from their father. A few days after the first story ran someone broke into her apartment and installed a hidden camera. She was secretly recorded for weeks and blackmailed. She was told “to behave or she will be defamed.”
But the threats didn’t stop Ismayilova. She has continued to write about corruption in her country. In October, Ismayilova will be presented with the Courage in Journalism Award by the Washington-based International Women Media Foundation.
She is now pursuing a master’s degree in public administration at Columbia University.
In 2008 she was awarded the Excellence in Journalism Award from Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Chile (with Cristóbal Peña and Mónica González) for a story that revealed fraud behind an $80 million Civil Registry contract.
In 20 plus years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation she investigated stories ranging from the dangerous prescribing of mood altering drugs in the elderly to tax scams that cost the Canadian government millions of dollars.
Her investigation into police use of stun guns included independent testing that revealed that a significant percentage of the weapons were defective.
For her 2011 investigation into Peru’s fishing industry, the world’s largest after China, Salazar obtained and analyzed more than 100,000 government records that until then had been kept secret. Her analysis revealed widespread fraud at fishmeal plants that allowed companies to overfish and evade taxes.
Salazar has also done extensive reporting on the gross human rights violations that took place in Peru in the two-decade conflict (1980-2000) between the state and leftist guerrilla groups.
ICIJ membership is by invitation only, but we are always looking for new reporters who can enhance our work, particularly in Africa as well as countries such as Russia and China.
If you are interested in becoming a member of ICIJ please email your resume and samples of your best investigative work to firstname.lastname@example.org.