News never sleeps: When and how transnational investigative journalism complements law enforcement in the fight against global corruption: SOC-ACE BRIEFING NOTE

Elizabeth David-Barrett, Slobodan Tomic

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther


Grand corruption is a transnational problem requiring transnational cooperation among anti-corruption actors.

In the case of law enforcement, cooperation is often difficult to achieve, and this has been attributed to the political sensitivity of investigations, lack of trust among agencies, difficulties in sharing intelligence securely, weaknesses and discrepancies in capacity, and organisational incentive structures that favour quick and easy cases. However, investigative journalists, who ostensibly face similar challenges, increasingly cooperate across borders to investigate and expose corruption with great success.

Our research seeks to understand how investigative journalists have overcome these difficulties and to assess the contribution that they make, alongside that of other actors such as law enforcement, to global collective efforts to tackle grand corruption and illicit financial flows. We explore these questions through interviews with investigative journalists who have participated in transnational networks in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Balkans

We find that these networks empower journalists operating in high-risk contexts by providing safety in numbers and facilitating strategic use of different legal frameworks or access to data, methods and standards, helping to bring stories to the public. They serve an important function in identifying individual perpetrators of crimes, but also in uncovering patterns of corruption and systemic weaknesses, informing policymakers about where there is a need for action. Moreover, by creating understanding and awareness about grand corruption and its impacts among the public, they help to create political pressure on office holders to act.

We argue that transnational investigative journalism (TIJ) should be seen as a new institution of global governance which adds significant capability and value to our anti-corruption toolkit. The
transnational networks are agile, dynamic, and capable of working across borders, making them a match for the perpetrators of grand corruption, money laundering, and organised crime. However, there is potential for them to make an even more important contribution, if their work could be
better coordinated with law enforcement and if their funding model was more secure.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Cite this