A little late after being hungover from both food or alcohol for the last week and a half, we decided to make a list of our favorite investigations from the past year. All of the investigations below affected us or taught us a great deal. There are no doubt a few missing from this list and if you can think of one or two that should be included, feel free to let us know. Here’s to a new year of investigations uncovering crimes of the powerful and taking new steps towards accountability.
The DJ and the War Crimes, December 2022.
A late contender to investigation of the year – and for so many reasons. The Rolling Stones together with Sophia Jones, Nidžara Ahmetašević, Milivoje Pantović, investigated the execution of civilians by the infamous Arkan Tigers in Bosnia in 1992. The narrative is captivating, taken to the next level by the visuals accompanying the text, and the archive is perhaps the best example of an online archival for presenting and preserving evidence we have come across. Link.
The workers who built FIFA World Cup, 2022
When world’s media was covering “sportswashing” in the lead up of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar many were building on the work of Norway’s Josimar Football. A pioneer of investigative sports journalism (yes, it is a thing and, yes, we need more of it), Josimar has been vital in helping to put the role of corporate money and state interests in football on the agenda. In the case of Qatar, the Josimar journalists exposed FIFA’s collusion in the country’s exploitation of migrants. They did that by old fashioned fieldwork: they went to Qatar, spoke to the migrant workers there, and published their stories to in a hard copy International Edition that no self-respecting World Cup watcher could be without. Buy it here.
Shireen Abu Akleh: The Extrajudicial Killing of a Journalist, September 2022.
When Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist who worked as a reported for Al-Jazeera, was murdered in May 2022 by the IDF. The Israeli MoD announced they would not investigate the incident. So, Al-Haq and Forensic Architecture took it upon themselves to find the answers. The investigation seeks to offer detailed forensic evidence with the explicit aim of seeking legal accountability. The investigation uses several creative investigative and forensic techniques to reach their conclusions alongside a documented methodology. We like this investigation for quite a few reasons, but most importantly because it shows the importance of citizen-led investigations when states and those in power refuse to do so themselves. Link.
Uzbekistan: Police Abuses in Autonomous Region Protests, November 2022.
As much of our attention in 2022 was perhaps drawn to a select few conflicts, some perhaps went under the radar of most. One example of this is Human Rights Watch’s investigation into the use of unjustifiable lethal and excessive force on largely peaceful demonstrators in July in Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan’s autonomous region. Relying on open-source information and techniques, the investigation successfully exposed how security forces used heavy grenades, live ammunition, and other tactics on demonstrators. Investigating under-reported and hard-to-access conflicts is where the open-source techniques and information really comes to the forefront. HRWs investigation demonstrates this brilliantly. Link.
Crime Scene Bucha: How Russian Soldiers Ran a “Cleansing” Operation in Ukraine, November 2022
This is one of those investigations that really touched us this year. With powerful testimony and compelling visual storytelling methods, AP and SITU investigated what happened during the Russian occupation in Bucha, Ukraine. The team built a high-res 3D model of the city which they use to transition between interviews, CCTV footage, and images and videos. This one is perhaps the most powerful visual investigation of the year. Link.
Russia’s Secret Network to Steal Ukraine Grain, Wall Street Journal, July 2022
We like supply chain investigations, especially those connected to conflict, and ones that deploy a variety of methods. The In-depth Investigation team at the WSJ traced the illicit export of Ukrainian grain being exported by Russian occupation forces. Using satellite imagery and ship tracking data, official documents, social media posts, as well as phone interviews with military truck drivers, the team pieced together the supply chain of stolen Ukrainian grain across occupied southern Ukraine and by ship to Russian ally Syria. War crime anyone? Link.
A ‘Bloody’ Trade: Inside the Murky Supply Chain Bringing Phosphates to Europe, June 2022.
This is another great supply chain investigation. Also connected to war, but this time the result of what a what looks like a massive collaborative effort. The coalition of investigators from at least eight different countries traced how key Syrian oligarchs have been profiting from the sale of phosphates to Europe, despite being under European and US sanctions. The investigation successfully exposed a complex array of cut-outs and obscured transactions aimed at hiding the links tying phosphate shipments to war profiteers in Syria. The coalition of investigators included SIRAJ, Lighthouse Reports, OCCRP, Mykolaiv Center for Investigative Reporting, CINS from Serbia, Bivol from Bulgaria IRPI from Italy, and RISE from Romania. Link.
“The Whole Industry is a Hell”, Klassekampen, June 2022
The relatively new investigative team of Norway’s leftist Klassekampen daily newspaper ran a series on the working conditions of drivers in the delivery sector, which had exploded during the pandemic. The team spoke to 32 drivers to map the working conditions and found extensive evidence of precarious work – long hours, low wages, and employment of drivers as temporary, independent contractors. In a nice innovative twist, the team also used Norway’s new transparency law (Åpenhetsloven), which came into force in the summer, to press the companies to disclose information about contracts and working hours. The series had an immediate impact, with several companies declaring they would shift drivers from temporary to permanent contracts. Link.
Investigation Lab is supported by Lysverket.