Laurent Richard : on the importance of cross-border journalism

Laurent Richard, founder and director of Forbidden Stories, a consortium of investigative journalists, and co-founder of Cash Investigation, a television news show on France 2 channel, came to talk about the importance of collaboration within journalism.

By Clément KASSER et Camille AUCHÈRE

  • Collaborative journalism is the answer to today’s « global attack on democracy. »
  • The numerous advantages in collaborating: building trust in the media, protecting at-risk journalists, and building innovative techniques, such as open source intelligence (OSINT).
  • “Even if you try to kill the messenger, you will not kill the message.”

Daphne Caruana Galizia, Omar Radi, Regina Martinez: these are only a few of the names of countless of journalists murdered while investigating mafia groups or government corruption. When Laurent Richard created the Forbidden Stories, an international collaborative journalism project, four years ago, he wanted to continue pursuing the work of these reporters. He believed that the public should have access to the investigations that these journalists risked their lives for.

« Collaboration is crucial because it provides protection,” Richard said. Forbidden Stories is made up of a large network of investigative teams spread across the world, each composed of up to 20 to 50 journalists – that means silencing them one by one is impossible.

According to Richard, international cross-border journalism is also a good business model: when reporters are scattered around the world, it promotes for more investigations to occur in different countries, and it’s cost-effective. Richard pointed to « the Pegasus project » by Forbidden Stories in which The Washington Post and The Guardian each brought on six full-time journalists.

The consortium relies on groundbreaking practices, such as open source investigation (OSINT), for its investigations. To emphasize the effectiveness of OSINT, Richard alluded to BBC Africa Eye‘s « Cameroon: Anatomy of a Killing » documentary, which managed to trace the source of executions of civilians in Cameroon through geolocation.

Forbidden Stories works primarily with well-known media outlets respective to their country, such as Le Monde in France, Die Zeit in Germany, and The Washington Post in the United States. Forbidden Stories collaborates with human beings first, and journalists second, says Richard. The journalists involved must therefore have a strong sense of collaboration.

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