Paul Radu: Journalists Must Uncover the Media’s Masters

Interview with Paul Radu of Romania
Romanian-born investigative journalist Paul Radu manages the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and is co-creator of the Investigative Dashboard concept and of the RISE Project, a new platform for investigative reporters and hackers in Romania.
Mr Radu has been awarded several fellowships, including the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship in 2001, the Milena Jesenska Press Fellowship in 2002 and the 2008 Knight International Journalism fellowship with the International Center for Journalists. In 2009-2010, he was a Stanford Knight Journalism Fellowship.
Mr Radu has also received numerous awards for his investigative work, including the Knight International Journalism Award in 2004, the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting in 2011 and the 2015 European Press Prize.
He wrote about the theft of US$1bn from three Moldovan banks back in 2014, disputes over a number of murky deals involving purchase of forests in Romania, and the wealth of Russian cellist Sergei Roldugin, a close friend of president Vladimir Putin. Now, Mr Radu is working on several cross-border investigations into money laundering.
Q: How did you become interested in covering corruption?
Paul Radu: When digging deep into wrongdoing, investigative reporters will inevitably come across corruption. The fabric of wrongdoing is made of corruption acts, so I realized this is what I need to investigate to inform the public.

Q: What do you think is the biggest hidden or ignored problem in the media right now? What should we uncover, and cover as journalists, about our own field?
Paul Radu: Media ownership and its direct connections to manipulation, on the one hand, and how oppressive governments limit access to information, on the other hand. People in power try to control media channels as much as they can. Sometimes the control is direct – their own people are imposed at the helm of media companies – and sometimes it is more subtle, via laws and regulations that impose restrictions on free media. The result is either distorted content or very limited access to quality content. In some cases, this control leads to journalists’ self-censorship, which also results in content that doesn't really serve the public.
Q: What are some positive developments in our field, journalism and the media in general? Who — individuals, organizations, or movements — is making a difference right now?
Paul Radu: The advances in technology open amazing possibilities for thorough, cross-border journalism. There are a few international investigative teams where journalists work alongside hackers. My organizations OCCRP and the RISE Project, for example, are trying to experiment with data and to find new ways to ignite more cross-border investigative reporting as well as to democratize investigative research to expose corruption and organized crime. So does the Investigative Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with its latest Panama Papers project that employed very useful technology to analyze and distribute data. There are other regional or local investigative journalism networks that make a difference as well.
One of the main goals in our field is to actually automate the steps in the investigative process so that journalists can focus on story-telling. For example, using pattern recognition techniques is a step in investigation that could be an automated. Also, in general we should use the public more: the public itself is a very important research body for investigative journalists.
Q: What would you ask yourself, should you be conducting this interview — and what would you answer?
Paul Radu: I would ask myself what is the role of Artificial Intelligence in the future of investigative reporting; and my answer would be that Artificial Intelligence and preserving memory will stop criminals from doing business as usual.
Photo: courtesy Paul Radu personal collection


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15 July 2016
Jessikka Aro is an investigative reporter with YLE Kioski, the social media forum run by the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE. Aro specializes in Russia, information warfare, security and extremism. Back in 2014, she started a crowdsourced investigation of pro-Russia info war trolls and a St. Petersburg troll factory. She then became the target of serious harassment by pro-Kremlin propagandists. Now, she is working on a brand new investigative book on the information warfare waged by the Putin regime.