Yesterday, Sunday October 3, 2021 the world was gifted another remarkable work of global journalism collaboration called the Pandora Papers – a project facilitated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and it contains lots of ideas and insights that Ghanaian journalists can learn from.
The Executive Director of ICIJ, Gerald Ryle, describes Pandora Papers as Panama Papers on steroids, because of the sheer scale of the volume of documents and revelations. There are 11.9 million documents, nearly 3 terabytes of data.
Pandora Papers is the work of more than 600 journalists from around the world that shows how some powerful people and billionaires use tax havens to hide their wealth. Some are buying expensive luxurious apartments and villas. What’s even more concerning is the fact that, most of the leaders of the world engaged in the shadow economies of tax havens exposed in the Papers are running countries that are dependent on international aid and their citizens live in poverty and squalor. A 2020 study by UNCTAD shows that Africa loses more money to illicit financial flows than it receives in international aid.
It also exposes con artists, and murderers who are using tax havens to hide their money and to move money around.
The project also accentuates the need to intensify the fight against illicit financial flows from Africa, and for that matter Ghana. Like Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, West Africa Leaks and FinCEN Files, Pandora Papers is showing the scale of illicit financial flows and corruption engaged in by authorities who themselves are expected to fight the menace.
A 2018 study by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) shows that within 15 years, Africa lost as much as $73 billion to illicit financial flows.
The project is a reflection of the best in investigative journalism that is a great example to learn from.
There are a number of things Ghanaian journalists can learn and these include:
- When you get a document, don’t just run with it, investigate further.
- Use public documents to crosscheck secret documents.
- Don’t focus only on what public officials say.
- Stop focusing on the public relations feature of journalism and do more accountable journalism.
- Learn to follow the money.
- Show interest in individuals and what they are doing, especially if they are close to or connected to power or the powerful.
- Ghanaian journalists must learn to look into people beyond what they say.
- Stop trusting and believing everything politicians and business people say.
There is always a veneer over the persona of public figures, what they say and do, and journalists must learn to distrust them, until they can independently confirm their claims.
That way Ghanaian journalists would make a lot of difference.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi