Journalism in the Public Interest

The Center for Investigation and Inf...

A model for independent investigative journalism

CIINFO was created to organize independent centers for the practice of investigative journalism and other forms of high-quality journalism in the public interest. CIINFO’s main mission is work with journalists who endeavor to create such centers to meet the needs of  journalism in their own countries, especially in Latin America, and to use CIINFO’s model and experience in setting up their projects. CIINFO provides start-up funding whenever possible, supports initial organization and structuring of the projects and conducts specialized training in investigative techniques, access to information laws  and internet publication.

Board of Directors and Leadership

John Dinges, Columbia University, chair and executive director.
Peter Hakim, Inter-American Dialogue, secretary.
Sheila Coronel, Columbia University, former director, Philippines Center for Investigative Journalism, treasurer.
Thomas Blanton, National Security Archive
Charles Lewis, American University
Gerardo Reyes, Miami Herald
(affiliations for identification only)

Successful Projects

The Center has a track record of successful projects in support of investigative journalism in Latin America, including two on-going projects in Chile, and support for initiatives in Argentina, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Applying the CIINFO model, Executive Director John Dinges worked with a group of Chilean journalists to establish the Centro de Investigación e Información Periodística (CIPER). CIPER’s staff of five full-time reporters produced more than 100 investigations during the time it was associated with CIINFO (2007-2008), and received major recognition, including the prestigious New Journalism prize from the Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano, founded by Gabriel García Márquez.

A second Chile project is ArchivosChile, established in 2009 in association with the journalism faculty of the University of Chile. The project is specifically focused on the systematic use of Chile´s new Transparency and Access to Information law to search for hitherto secret documents in government archives from the period of military dictatorship (1973-1990). Major investigations included the publication of more than 150 “Secret Laws” used by the military to conceal financial transfers to the military and the discovery of hundreds of original documents from Chile’s secret police apparatus, DINA, which had been thought to have been destroyed. Many of the investigative stories were published in the Chilean newspaper La Nación. See below for links to those articles.

A premise of CIINFO’s projects is the unmet need, especially in Latin America, for high quality investigative journalism in support of healthy democracies. CIINFO’s model for independent centers grew out of the realization that the plethora of programs for teaching investigative journalism in universities and training working journalists in newsrooms has not been sufficient. Though important for other reasons, these training programs have not significantly increased the quantity and quality of investigative work by established news media. Existing media organizations have devoted few resources to rigorous, credible investigation of corruption and transparency problems in government and in the private sector. In-house investigative units, created in some newspapers in recent decades, have proven to be unstable institutionally and of short-lived effectiveness in most cases.

CIINFO projects seek to fill the need for effective journalism in support of democracy by following these journalistic principles and operational guidelines:

Operational guidelines:

–Creation of investigative journalism centers that are independent of established media but work in cooperation with them;

–Nonprofit financial status that incorporates both national and international funding sources;

–Operating partnerships with select universities and media organizations;

–Participation and leadership in the growing  international network of independent journalism initiatives.

–Contribution to the future of quality journalism by pioneering innovation in the digital environment and on-line media.

–Creation of competitively-paid jobs in journalism for professionals whose experience qualifies them to do top investigative work.

Journalistic standards:

CIINFO promotes journalism that is exacting and nonpartisan. Our values, objectives and principles emerge from the arena of professional journalism and from the rights and responsibilities of news media institutions in a democratic, constitutional society. These include the systematic pursuit of information vital to the citizens of a free society, scrutiny and exploration of the public and private institutions that most effect ordinary citizens, the active defense of transparency in these institutions, and the advocacy of public access to all levels of information generated by tax-supported entities.

We accomplish this in projects that provide decently paid opportunities for journalists early in their career as well as for those at the top of the profession who might otherwise leave the profession or work in jobs that do not challenge their full abilities. Central to the model is training in investigative journalism and in the systematic use of access to information and transparency laws. On-line publication and distribution of material through social media is an integral part of all projects, stemming from the conviction that the future of journalism in support of democratic societies depends on the development of independent, high-quality journalism in the digital realm.

Tax-exempt status:

CIINFO is been certified by the IRS as a tax-exempt public charity under section 501(c)3 of the tax code.

Financial Support

Major funders for CIINFO projects include the Open Society Institute and the Ford Foundation.

Its main office is in Washington, DC. Contact: John Dinges, executive director, 202 222 8476. CIINFO, 4208 45th St. NW, Washington, DC 20016. Email jcdinges (at) gmail.com.

ArchivosChile has offices at the Instituto de Comunicación e Imagen (ICEI) of the University of Chile, Santiago, Chile. Contact: Pascale Bonnefoy, coordinator and chief investigative reporter, 562 9787958. Pascale Bonnefoy <pascale.bonnefoy (at) gmail.com>

Publications

Articles below were produced by CIINFO investigators and published in other media in addition to project websites. (Incomplete list)

Investigations published by CIPER during its association with CIINFO (2007-2009) can be found at www.ciperchile.cl.
Current investigations by ArchivosChile can be found at ArchivosChile.org

Operación Cóndor: Kissinger ordenó no avisar a Pinochet de planes de asesinatos

Lanacion.cl and ArchivosChile, 10 de abril de 2010
Por John Dinges

La revelación de nuevos documentos desclasificados y obtenidos por la National Security Archive confirma que Estados Unidos supo de planes de asesinatos antes del atentado que dió muerte al ex canciller Orlando Letelier.

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Pinochet obtuvo US$442 millones del Banco Central y la Tesorería

Por John Dinges y Jorge Escalante / La Nación Domingo and ArchivosChile, 24 de enero de 2010

Las cerca de 160 leyes, dictadas secretamente por la junta militar, ordenaron retiros financieros a favor del Ejército, Armada, Fuerza Aérea y el Ministerio de Defensa. Cinco de ellas invocaron a la Ley del Cobre, mientras una sexta ley “secreta” ordenó a la Tesorería otorgar US$100 millones, sin fundamentar el mandato.

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Las 150 leyes secretas de la dictadura

La Nación and ArchivosChile, 14 de febrero de 2010
Por John Dinges y Jorge Escalante

A 20 años del régimen militar, solo hoy es posible transparentar estos textos con que la junta liderada por Augusto Pinochet traspasó fondos, modificó la Ley del Cobre, pagó sobresueldos y designó a los fiscales militares que se hicieron cargo de los arbitrarios consejos de guerra en contra de prisioneros políticos. ArchivosChile y LND consiguieron revisar algunos textos.

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Porqué la Concertación bloqueó el resurgimiento del Diario Clarín

The Curious Case of Victor Pey, CJR, May-June 2007

Published in CIPER and The Clinic, Oct. 11, 2007, in Spanish, and in Columbia Journalism Review July 2007 in English. The story is the investigation of actions of the left-of-center Concertación government in fighting the revival of the newspaper Clarín, which was once Chile´s most popular tabloid. The newspaper had been confiscated and closed by the Pinochet government. Reparations were paid by the Chilean government to a group of false claimants, according to the findings of an  international tribunal, thus preventing the real owners, who declared their political affinity with the government, from reviving the newspaper. By John Dinges