May 18, 2012 · Posted in: General
MOST JOURNALISTS would probably think it virtually impossible to investigate prominent political personalities in societies with severe restrictions on the press. But as the case of the investigation of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai shows, the digital revolution has opened new doors to international investigative journalists.
In a post in her international investigative journalism blog Watchdog-Watcher, Sheila Coronal, founding executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) showed how Hong Kong and United States journalists used digital tools to break down borders and retrace the web of dealings conducted by Bo Xilai that enabled him to amass a tidy fortune.
Bo Xilai was recently purged from the Chinese Communist Party after an international furor over charges of murder and corruption. Bo was accused of involvement in the murder of UK businessman Neil Heywood that “precipitated the biggest political scandal in China in years,” Coronel noted.
In her two-part blog entry, Coronel showed a feisty Hong Kong-based Next Magazine led the way and broke the ground by sniffing Bo’s corruption trail. Next Magazine’s lead was followed by bigger media groups, with agencies such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Bloomberg “trolling public records databases around the world to piece together information about the couple, information that in the pre-digital days would have been difficult to find.”
“This is the new era of investigative reporting. Governments and companies are publishing increasing amounts of information online – yes, even in China. And the ability to find and mine that information is now an essential part of any journalist’s toolkit,” Coronel said in her blog.
The convoluted trail brought journalists to many websites, from courts to lawyers’ associations to the sites of publicly-listed companies to lay bare everything from personal and official photos to annual reports.