Police inefficiencies leave a gap for journalist investigation into unsolved crimes.

By Ashley Seymour

Journalists from across the globe drove home the importance of media investigations when police failure limits uncovering crime on Saturday. Speaking at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference, held at the University of the Witwatersrand, experts in the field detailed previous experiences; where detailed  journalistic research exceeded that of police investigation and brought those involved closer to justice.

Cecil Rosner (Canada), Anna Babinets (Ukraine) and Sanne Terlingen (Netherlands) discussed how they used creative and fastidious investigative methods to uncover cases of unprosecuted wrongdoing, often overlooked by police officials.

Explaining how a three year investigation into the suspicious death of Eritrean refugee Kalsay Mekonen led to exposing an international undercover human trafficking network, exceeding the evidence uncovered by police investigators, Terlingen commented that the story wasn’t about a single suspicious incident but rather about a “justice system which is failing when it comes to international investigations.

Mekonen was found outside of his country of refuge in Germany, hanging in a tree. Police attributed his death to suicide before the investigation by Terlingen, who uncovered connections to a violent trafficking syndicate in Italy.

Editor of the Napali Times and session moderator Kunda Dixit vocalised the importance of employing strict investigative methodology when approaching difficult cases to uncover truth when reporting stating that journalists had to employ a investigative “toolkit” to properly research cold cases, cases of wrongful conviction or open investigations.

Rosner also emphasised approaching opaque crime cases with great attention to detail to merge the disciplines of police investigation techniques with the access to resources and freedom from bureaucracy of journalism, stating that young people “often take it for granted that journalists should act like detectives”.

Panelists advised audience members to employ the tools available to them, such as sources, empathy, public records and their ability to investigate globally to identify the finer details of violent crime cases which often led to a greater understanding of “international criminal structures”

The talk displayed a strong sense of justice from the panel, who had often spent years working on reporting an incident of crime. Commenting on his experience of uncovering the wrongful deaths of indigenous women in Canada, Rosner said that “holding powerful interests to account is what we do”.