Africa Investigates puts flesh on Al Jazeera’s ambition to give voice to the voiceless. In a world first, this hard-hitting project gives some of Africa’s best journalists the opportunity to pursue high-level investigative targets across the continent – using their unique perspective and local knowledge to put corruption, exploitation and abuse under the spotlight.
All too often in the past, African reporters have not been able to pursue wrongdoing because it involves powerful figures who wield undue influence over local media – financial, corporate or political – or because it is simply too dangerous. Investigative journalism is a perilous profession in many African nations, where intimidation, beatings, imprisonment and death threats can be an occupational hazard. As a result they have often had to sit idly by while Africa’s story has been told by Western correspondents, “parachuted in” for the purpose, who reinforce stereotypical views about African peoples and their supposed inability to face up to and solve their own problems.
Now, determined to tell their own story, Africa Investigates reporters will correct that impression. Working undercover and using hidden cameras, they will expose elaborate frauds and criminal conspiracies, child trafficking, abuse of minorities and high level official corruption. And in the process they hope they will help make African institutions, businesses and politicians more accountable and susceptible to pressure to change things for the better.
In What Price the Story, the first programme of the series, veteran African journalist Sorious Samura reveals why our team of reporters is prepared to risk everything to reveal the truth. He has personal experience of the dangers of investigative journalism in Africa; eleven years ago he was arrested and tortured in Liberia while uncovering a story about Charles Taylor, the country’s then dictator, and a shady arms deal. Sorious was on assignment for British and American TV at the time and the resulting international outcry secured his release, but he knows that most of the continent’s journalists do not have that kind of protection.
As he revisits some of the places in Liberia where he suffered so much, the film also introduces some of the other reporters who will be bringing their stories to air through Africa Investigates in the weeks ahead – people like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, a Ghanaian journalist famous for keeping his identity secret but who nevertheless has been praised by President Barack Obama for his tireless investigations of corruption, and Stanley Kwenda, a Zimbabwean journalist who was forced to flee his country after writing critical articles about its leader, Robert Mugabe. Both of their extraordinary films show a side of Africa that is rarely seen – in Anas’s case throwing a spotlight on an audacious scam to defraud foreign gold investors of millions of dollars and in Stanley’s case a remarkable and tragic story about child trafficking and people smuggling. Like the other journalists in the series, some of whom will have to remain anonymous for security reasons, they believe that strong investigative journalism can have a dramatic and beneficial effect on some of the continent’s problems.
Watch more Africa Investigates for reports by undercover African journalists who face intimidation, beatings and death threats.