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New RISJ research gauges impact of Panama Papers three years on

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New RISJ research gauges impact of Panama Papers three years on

Since the Panama Papers in April 2016, around one-in-five countries tracked have taken substantive measures – shifts in policies or regulations, or new laws – to tackle the issues raised by the global data breach which exposed acts of corruption and criminality supported by a network of secretive financial jurisdictions and institutions. Eight per cent of countries tracked saw public officials resign or be removed, while a third of countries saw at least one instance of civil, criminal or political actions taken against a person or company implicated in the scandal.

These are some of the findings of a Reuters Institute fact sheet, Gauging the Global Impacts of the ‘Panama Papers’ Three Years Later by Lucas Graves, Director of Research (Acting) and freelance journalist Nabeelah Shabbir. This research is the first comprehensive overview of the impacts of a global reporting collaboration. The scale of the Panama Papers – which grew to involve 500 reporters in nearly 90 different countries, resulting in 4,700 stories by the end of 2016 – provides a “best-case scenario” to assess the impact of investigative journalism.

Almost half of countries (45%) studied have taken measures to understand the problems related to the Panama Papers or identify steps to tackle them through actions such as inquiries, commissions, public investigations, hearings and intergovernmental or interagency meetings. Such deliberative actions, which can take years to conclude, often precede more substantive policy-focused changes or specific actions against companies or individuals.

Meanwhile, backlash against journalists who had worked on the Panama Papers was seen in 17% of countries studied, concentrated in those countries where press freedom is poor in general. One notable instance includes the assassination of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017.

Lead author of the research, Lucas Graves, said: “The consequences of the Panama Papers are still unfolding three years after the story broke. These results underscore the benefits that major investigations can deliver in terms of substantive reform, though such changes may take years to emerge.”


Data for this analysis comes primarily from the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Washington-based non-profit news organisation which coordinated the Panama Papers investigation. Entries from their public-facing blog about impacts stemming from the Panama Papers, posted between 3 April 2016 and 3 March 2019, were reviewed in detail for outcomes of the investigation. Further identified outcomes were taken from the ICIJ’s Twitter feed. Confirmation and updating of outcomes via additional news searches was carried out where possible.


About the Authors

Lucas Graves is acting director of research and a senior research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. He studies how news and news organisations are changing in the contemporary media ecosystem; his book Deciding What’s True: The Rise of Political Fact Checking in American Journalism (2016) was the first in-depth look at this rapidly growing genre of accountability reporting. He is also an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has written extensively on the economic, professional, and technological currents shaping news production today.

Nabeelah Shabbir is a freelance journalist, formerly of the Guardian, who specialises in pan-European journalism, global environmental coverage, and digital storytelling.


WAN-IFRA External Contributor


2019-03-15 15:03

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