The Panama Papers shed light on Iran’s plans for self-sufficiency and Japan’s role in tech development.
(By Scilla Alecci, Alessia Cerantola, and Denise Hassanzade Ajiri for The Diplomat)
On February 5, 2004, during the 25th anniversary of the revolution that ousted the pro-American shah and brought Islamists to power, Iranian and Japanese corporate executives and government officials celebrated the beginning of a new business partnership in the South Pars gas field, the world’s largest.
Gathered in the port city of Assaluyeh, one of Iran’s industrial zones and the field’s “glittering jewel,” representatives from Iranian energy developer Petropars Ltd., Japan’s Toyo Engineering Corporation, and other partners threw coins into the foundations of the plant to inaugurate the project.
A few months before, Petropars had awarded a consortium of companies headed by Toyo Engineering a $1.2 billion contract to implement three of the nearly 30 development projects, or phases, of the South Pars gas field, which Iran shares with Qatar. The consortium was in charge of designing, constructing and providing commissioning services for a natural gas processing plant that would recover the gas from facilities located 105 km offshore.
Continue reading here.
(By Scilla Alecci and Alessia Cerantola for The Diplomat)
April 15, 2016
In post-war Japan, Makoto Iida and Juichi Toda came to be known as the founding fathers of the country’s security industry. In 1962, the long-time friends and business partners created Secom Co., the first Japanese firm to provide security services to private and commercial properties.
Within a few years, the company played a key role in protecting athletic facilities during the 1964 Summer Olympic Games, which took place in Tokyo. Secom also became an important asset to the nation’s nuclear industry, securing nuclear power plants in collaboration with utilities such as Fukushima’s facility-operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company.
Iida and his partner Toda, who died in 2014, built Secom into the nation’s largest private security firm by market share, making it a hallmark of Japanese business. Today, the firm employs more than 53,000 people across 21 countries.
In the early 1990s, when Secom became the first officially sanctioned Japanese firm in China, Iida and Toda also created a complex system of Japanese private companies and offshore entities in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands and Guernsey, in the English Channel, according to incorporation documents and private correspondence. The documents stated that the purpose of the shell firms was to distribute Secom stock holdings among Iida and Toda’s relatives ahead of their deaths.But a trove of secret records details how their friendship extended beyond the management of the company and their occasional drinking sessions.
The records are part of a larger cache of files – more than 11 million in all – that was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other media partners.
The documents show the inner workings of Mossack Fonseca & Co., a Panama-based law firm that specializes in building corporate structures that can be used to conceal assets. The leaked documents include emails, client records, and corporate filings from 1977 to 2015. The files, known collectively as the Panama Papers, contain information about 214,488 offshore entities connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories, including Japan.
(by Alessia Cerantola for BBC News Magazine)
Five years ago an earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered a tsunami and a series of meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Kaori Suzuki's home is nearby - determined to stay, but worried about her children's health, she and some other mothers set up a laboratory to measure radiation. Continue reading here.
(by Alessia Cerantola for BBC Outlook)
Kaori Suzuki leads a group of concerned mothers who decided to measure radiation in the Japanese city of Iwaki, near the Fukushima power plant which was damaged after the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. She spoke to Outlook's reporter Alessia Cerantola (photograph by Emanuele Satolli). Listen here.
(un reportage multimediale di Alessia Cerantola, Emanuele Satolli (foto e video), Matteo Moretti (visual storytelling) per Internazionale)
L’11 marzo 2011 alle 14.46 ora locale, una scossa di terremoto di magnitudo 9 sulla scala Richter, con epicentro al largo della costa nordorientale del Giappone, ha scatenato uno tsunami alto fino a quaranta metri. L’onda è arrivata lenta e inesorabile inghiottendo intere città.
Cinque anni dopo, quel tratto di costa è ancora un cantiere a cielo aperto che si estende a perdita d’occhio per centinaia di chilometri, frenetico e polveroso. Superati i boschi disabitati che separano la costa dall’entroterra, si aprono distese di terreno fresco dove i rumori incessanti dei camion, delle ruspe e dei trapani al lavoro per la ricostruzione fanno da sottofondo e le baie odorano dell’asfalto e del legno appena piallato e verniciato. Sulle ceneri delle città e dei villaggi di pescatori spazzati via dall’acqua ne sono nati di nuovi, ma rispetto a prima c’è una differenza fondamentale: mancano gli abitanti. Quasi 15.900 persone sono morte e circa 2.500 sono scomparse. La maggior parte di chi è sopravvissuto vive ancora in case temporanee, qualcuno ha già ricevuto un alloggio definitivo e altri se ne sono andati e forse non torneranno mai più.
Continua a leggere, vedere e ascoltare il reportage multimediale qui.
(By Alessia Cerantola for the BBC College of Journalism)
Franco Castaldo (above) remembers the time when people used to buy his newspaper at the kiosk, hiding it inside their coat or in the pages of other publications. Their wish to be informed was tempered by fear of the consequences.
It was 2004 and he’d just started publishing Grandangolo di Agrigento - a bimonthly newspaper with stories on the local mafia in a city on the southern coast of Sicily, where the risk of exposing the truth could be severe for reporters and their supporters.
After decades running the newsdesk of La Sicilia, one of the island’s main daily newspapers, Castaldo was suddenly removed from his position, transferred to another province and then paid for not working. His crime was having reported the accusation, by a supergrass during a trial, that an important local entrepreneur was connected to the mafia.
Continue reading here.
By Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, July 3 2015, BBCNews
Last year in Japan, more than 25,000 people took their own lives. That's 70 every day. The vast majority were men. Those figures do not make Japan's the highest suicide rate in the world in a developed nation.
That dubious title belongs to South Korea. But it is still far, far higher than virtually all other wealthy countries. It is three times the suicide rate in the United Kingdom. Continue reading here.
(The Guardian. By Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome and Alessia Cerantola in Padua)
Women travelling in Italy were left at the mercy of a suspected serial rapist in the city of Padua for more than a year after authorities in Italy and the UK failed to cooperate on a rape complaint by a student that was filed in England in 2013.
Italian authorities were sent a formal complaint, forwarded by British police, that alleged Dino Maglio had used the Couchsurfing.com website to lure a 20-year-old American woman to his home, and drug and rape her in spring 2013.
But an investigation by the Guardian, in conjunction with journalists at theInvestigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI), into the handling of the case found that the complaint fell through bureaucratic cracks and was not investigated for months, despite the woman’s multiple attempts to pursue justice.
Maglio was later convicted of drugging and raping a 16-year-old from Australia who had also stayed with him. According to witness statements more than 15 other women believe they were drugged and abused in the period between the first rape complaint and his arrest a year later.
The lack of coordination highlights how rudimentary law-enforcement collaboration can be across the EU in anything other than major international conspiracy cases.
Continue reading here.
(The Guardian. By by Cecilia Anesi, Giulio Rubino and Alessia Cerantola)
This year-long journalistic investigation was carried out by the reporters of IRPI and is rolled out with an unprecedented collaboration on this kind of topic simultaneously by The Southern China Morning Post in Hong Kong, CBC in Canada, L’Espresso in Italy, the Guardian in the UK, Correct!v in Germany, Newsweek in Poland, the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, Investigace in Czech Republic, TVI in Portugal.
A group formed by 14 girls got in touch with IRPI reporters over a year ago. They all alleged having been drugged and possibly sexually assaulted by an Italian policeman who used the host-a-traveller website Couchsurfing.com. The man is currently jailed for having allegedly raped a 16-year-old from Australia who he hosted always through the popular platform. IRPI reconstructed the personal experience of each girl of the 14. It then contacted media from each country the alleged victims are from, providing an original angle that could represent the memories of each. All the media that embarked on this massive work put an immense amount of work, effort and passion into this and IRPI wants to thanks them all, for having believed in the potential of the story and for treating it with the maximum care and sensitivity possible.
IRPI received the first hint on the story via its whistleblowing platform Irpileaks - based on Globaleaks software -and it is keen to receive further leaks from women who can recall similar experiences. Testimonies can be sent to their whistleblowing platform Irpileaks.
List of published articles here.
(by Alessia Cerantola for the BBC College of Journalism)
As Japan imposes new laws that threaten to restrict the freedom of the press, some Japanese reporters and activists are seeking new ways to conduct investigative journalism.
At the end of November the city of Manila hosted Uncovering Asia, the first investigative journalism conference to be held on the continent. Organised by the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), it was a three-day event with panels and workshops about investigations, new investigative techniques and tools.
Hundreds of journalists came from all over the world to share their experiences, with the focus firmly on Asia. And as I’d noticed at previous similar events or summer schools I’ve attended in Orlando, Kiev or London, the number of Japanese participants was quite low.
During a conference in Rio in 2013 there were only three Japanese delegates from a total of 1,350 international attendees. Even the investigative conference in the Philippines didn’t attract Japanese journalists in any numbers, with just 13 out of more than 300 officially registered. Yet initiatives starting up in Japan might be considered particularly relevant at this political moment in time.
On 19 December, nine days after the Japanese government passed a controversial law aimed at protecting state secrets and limiting access to certain public information, Japanese activist and academic Masayuki Hatta unveiled the challenging new platform Whistleblowing.jp at Tokyo Waseda University.
Developed with technology from the Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights, it’s a website created to receive leaks of sensitive information, and is able to transfer documents to journalists who use it. Users can access the site through internet privacy service The Onion Router (Tor), a free software enabling users to navigate anonymously on the web. After a training session, Japanese journalists from different outlets can access and use the material, which will not be published independently.
"I'm not entirely against the protection of sensitive information, but I also believe the new law has many problems," Hatta told Reuters.
The wave of indignation and public demand for more transparency and answers that followed the Fukushima nuclear crisis (above) in 2011 is already flagging. In the aftermath of the incident, anger aimed at the Fukushima Daiichi plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) and the government, for hiding information, turned the Japanese media - usually a ‘lap dog’ - into a ‘pit bull’.
This is not uncommon once the media pack scents blood, Tokyo-based US author and investigative reporter Jake Adelstein told me. “Increasingly critical reports are being written in the major newspapers but the weeklies, of course, are the most unrestrained. Surprisingly, of all the major newspapers only two have been vocally critical of Tepco from early on in the news cycle: the far right Sankei Shimbun and slightly left Tokyo Shimbun,” Adelstein says.
“One may not like their political views but the papers have done some excellent journalism in their coverage of the Fukushima reactor crisis.”
However, the strongest reactions at the time came from a sector considered second tier in Japanese journalism - independent and freelance reporters - who acted as “lone wolves in the herd” and behaved “like the watchdogs they are supposed to be”, according to Adelstein.
Today, some initiatives that were sparked back then are still striving to reinforce that independent stance. More than two years ago the journalists Jiro Ishimaru, from Asia Press, and Yoishiro Tateiwa, from Japan's national public broadcaster NHK, started the non-profit iAsiadigital project. They conduct investigative reporting, examining Japan as “a less transparent society”, focusing on money and politics, the environment, China and Korea and issues around journalism.
“We’re still at the beginning of the project,” explained Tateiwa. “But when we run stories that the main stream media don’t, such as about data on Tepco’s assets or the political fund of Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto, we get large audiences.”
At the moment they have 10 journalists and a couple more contributing. They’re also exploring a collaboration with the academic sector.
The country’s mainstream media was shaken up by the Fukushima disaster. Speaking at the Uncovering Asia conference, Tomohisa Yamaguchi, investigations editor of Japan’s leading newspaper Asahi Shimbun, said his paper was about to close its investigative wing when senior managers were inspired by the models of investigative journalism they saw during visits to the New York Times and ProPublica.
The Asahi Shimbun investigative reporting section was launched in 2006, partly reduced in 2011, and then reinforced in April 2012. Since then it has experimented with new forms of collaborative journalism, including the production of stories in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
According to Yasuomi Sawa, deputy editor at Kyodo News, that network has also been focusing on investigative reporting and installed a dedicated newsroom in 2012. “We are pursuing in-depth as well as investigative journalism. At the moment our special section is not large, but we’re concentrating our efforts and bringing in other reporters, from the social or foreign newsdesks, to contribute,” Sawa says.
The future of investigative journalism in Japan is still uncertain but interest seems to be increasing. Investigative reporter David Kaplan, who’s worked extensively with the Japanese media and is GIJN’s executive editor, says: “Japanese mainstream journalists face unrelenting pressure to report within narrow confines. There are world-class journalists in Japan, but they are not allowed to practice their craft to the fullest. Fortunately, there are people working to change this, and there are lots of other outlets that can have a dramatic effect there.”
The problem for Japan now is finding its own sustainable business models, as happened in other Asian countries such as South Korea or the Philippines, where there are now thriving investigative reporting centres.
"There’s lots of potential funding and expertise in Japan to support such a venture," Kaplan believes. "Perhaps a tech entrepreneur - like Amazon's Jeff Bezos or eBay's Pierre Omidyar - will step up and fund a new media group that will bust the confines of Japanese journalism. That would be great to see."