Investigative journalists, judges and prosecutors discuss how to better fight organized crime

A high-level training for investigative journalists, judges and prosecutors on “New perspectives on the fight to organized crime in the European and Latin-American context”, organized with UNESCO’s participation and support, was held in Rome from 20 to 28 June.
A high-level training for investigative journalists

The training was organized by Escola Nacional de Formação e Aperfeiçoamento de Magistrados (ENFAM) and Escola Superior do Ministério Público da União (ESMPU), with the support of the Italo-Latin-American International Organization (IILA), the Brazilian Embassy and UNESCO.

The workshop represented a unique opportunity for the participants from the two countries to have a comparative analysis on the national legal frameworks, challenges and best practices in their respective country in the fight against organized crime and corruption. At the same time, it served as a platform to establish a network of peers and enhance synergies on these issues.

The training brought together high-level prosecutors, justices and investigative journalists from Brazil and Italy to foster dialogue and share best practices on the fight against organized crime and corruption in the European and Latin-American context.

A specific discussion was organized on freedom of expression and transnational organized crime, which was moderated by Guilherme Canela, Chief of the Communication and Information - Freedom of expression and Safety of Journalists section at UNESCO. This discussion served as an opportunity for enhancing the dialogue between judges/prosecutors and investigative journalists, a key component in UNESCOs work on freedom of expression and the rule of law.

The exchange saw experienced investigative journalists, such as:

  • Antonio Baquero, from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project who is specialized in the coordination of big projects, like OpenLux and Suisse Secrets;
  • Jamil Chade, a Brazilian journalist who covers the UN bodies and is the author of several books – including “Politics, Bribes & Football”;
  • Marilu Mastrogiovanni, reporter, founder and director of Il Tacco d’Italia, who has served as a jury member and chair of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize and is specialized in investigative reporting on the organized crime based in Puglia, where following several threats to her life, she was given permanent police protection; and
  • Siria Gastélum Félix, Director of Resilience at Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC). She is an Emmy Award winning journalist who has worked on radio, television and print in Mexico, United States and Canada.

The journalists highlighted the challenges in investigating organized crime from the news media perspective, including for their safety. The debate with the judges and prosecutors explored how an enhanced dialogue between journalists and the justice system, keeping the independence of all the actors involved, could contribute to the fight against organized crime, while protecting freedom of expression.

During the 7-day training, topics related to organized crime and corruption were addressed by high-level experts and senior practitioners and stimulated a dialogue among the participants.

Among others, the training included sessions on corruption and human rights; organized crime and corruption: the Italian and the Brazilian experience; strategies of coping of paramilitary and military forces; freedom of expression and transnational organized crime; international judicial cooperation and prosecution of transnational organized crime; jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on criminal law.

From illicit trafficking of cultural property to the murder of journalists, organized crime activities at the national, regional and international levels have profound impacts on the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic rights, under the mandate of UNESCO. These include the right to culture and freedom of expression
Ana Luiza Thompson-Flores Director of UNESCO Regional office for Science and Culture in Europe

Threats against journalists include murders, physical and psychological violence, arbitrary arrests and digital violence, particularly against female journalists, both online and offline. Such crimes committed against journalists not only have repercussions on the victims and their families, but they also have important consequences on access to information and freedom of expression, which are fundamental rights and cornerstones of a democratic society.

This event was supported by UNESCO in the framework of UNESCO’s Judges Initiative which aims to reinforce the capacities of judicial actors on international and regional standards on freedom of expression, access to information and the safety of journalists, thus ensuring prosecution and trial of those responsible for attacks against journalists, as well as more broadly preventing indiscriminate actions against free speech.

Under UNESCO’s Judges Initiative, over 23,000 judicial actors, including judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, have been trained on these issues in over 150 countries around the world since 2013, notably through a series of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), on-the-ground training and workshops, and the publications of a number of toolkits and guidelines.