Swedish journalist urges delegates to ‘never give up’

Daniel Ohman, of Swedish Radio, was one of the journalists who uncovered the Swedish-Saudi arms deal, back in 2012. Photo: TJ Lemon

Daniel Öhman, of Swedish Radio, was one of the journalists who uncovered the Swedish-Saudi arms deal in 2012. Photo: TJ Lemon

When Swedish journalist Daniel Öhman heard the words “I got something for you” he knew he was onto something big.

Öhman, a Swedish Radio journalist who helped uncover his country’s secret arms deal with Saudi Arabia, was on a train when he got a phone call from an unknown person and simply given a meeting date and time. When he showed up, he was given an envelope, with a brief introduction to the story.

“Don’t give up after the first time you’ve seen them, try and try again.”

Öhman gave the opening address on the second day of the investigative journalism conference, Power Reporting, earlier today.

The most important thing, said Öhman, is that his team never gave up. “If you have a person who is crucial to your story, don’t give up after your first phone call, or your second. Don’t give up after the first time you’ve seen them, try and try again”, he said.

The Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) had plans to help Saudi Arabia build an advanced arms factory in the desert. Known as Project Simoom, it began in 2007 and was exposed by a group of journalists five years later.

Two years before the operation officially began, Sweden signed a “military cooperation treaty” with the Saudi regime. The agreement was to assist the Saudi government in the building of its own weapons industry, but everything was “top secret”, according to Öhman.

In the two months that followed the initial story, which exposed the Swedish government, 5 400 articles were published in local media while the international media continuously reported on developments in the story while plans to build the weapons factory were stopped and the Swedish defence minister was forced to resign.

“It is not like in other countries, where you can be killed”

One of the biggest challenges they faced was gaining the public’s trust. They knew right from the start that the government was lying and “we needed to make sure people believed in us and not in government agencies”, Ohman said.

Öhman said the situation for journalists in Sweden as very different to that of other countries. While the team were undermined and threatened by government officials, at no point did they fear for their lives. “It is not like in other countries, where you can be killed,” he said.

SCIENCE INSIDE: Inside Joburg’s tremors

Johannesburg’s mild earth tremors and women who eat toxic clay to lighten their skin tone are two of the stories in this week’s The Science Inside.  The weekly science show on campus radio station VoWFM also looks at a community learning about the scientific impact of their lives on the their surroundings.

Listen to the podcast of the show presented and produced by Paul McNally and former #teamvuvu journalist Anina Mumm, here:

VoWFm brings chemistry to the airwaves

A student conducting a chemistry experiment at the Wits Science Stadium. The university has psycho-social programmes to identify and nurture learners from disadvantaged high schools who show promise in science and mathematics. Photo: Tanyaradzwa Nyamajiya

The Science Inside brings chemistry of another kind to campus via VoW FM airwaves. Photo: Wits Vuvuzela

By Pheladi Sethusa and Paul McNally

Wits campus radio station, VoW FM (90.5), debuted a pioneering science show called “The Science Inside” last night.

The show  aims to teach listeners about science in new and interesting ways. The show produced by The Wits Radio Academy with funding from The Department of Science & Technology, takes major news events and goes into the science behind them. 

According to presenter Paul McNally, the show is committed to science education in a climate where South Africans consider knowledge of political parties superior to chemistry (and by extension corruption-uncovering journalists are deemed more worthy than science journalists). This is a perception the show hopes to chip away at, as our science and maths education was ranked second last in the world last year, just ahead of Yemen, according to a World Economic Forum Report. 

In the pilot episode Deejay Manaleng explained how a pepper spray was dropped in a girls’ bathroom. The gas escaped across the toilet and up to the ceiling. She giggled at the memory of her running out of the toilet cubicle of a packed club spluttering and coughing. She starts to cackle when she explains how each girl – for the rest of the night – squeezed into the cubicle, pulled down her pants and burnt her ass. “They were screaming,” she laughed into the microphone.

The episode with Deejay then focused on chemical weapons in Syria – a macabre and bloody topic – but the pepper spray story helped ease the tension before investigating the technology behind complicated killing machines. One of the experts on the show cited pepper spray as the world’s simplest chemical weapon.

Next Monday the show will look at the science inside South Africa’s ARV shortage. Tune in live every Monday at 6pm or stream/download the Science Inside podcasts on soundcloud.