Investigative Journalism Training Boosts the Capacity of Central American Journalists to Expose Corruption and Highlight Social Issues

More than 90 journalists in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were trained in investigative and data journalism, as well as physical and digital security, through a program conducted by Internews in the region.

The intensive fellowship and mentoring program, which concluded in August, was part of a project — Promoting Journalism and Freedom of Expression — that seeks to improve the quality and quantity of investigative journalism in the Northern Triangle and support protection initiatives that advance the environment in which Central American journalists operate.

“The project has helped to improve and strengthen journalism in the region,” says María José Villalta, Internews El Salvador Program Associate. “As part of the training, the journalists conducted investigations that helped expose situations of corruption, violence and other social and political issues that that had not been previously identified.”

At the start of the program, 30 participants (10 per country) received support and methodology to carry out their journalistic reports. In the last phase of the fellowship program, 17 investigations were presented by the journalists.

“The support Internews provided us was important both financially and in terms of capacity building,” said Mariela Castañón, a Fellow of Guatemala. “During the development of my research it was possible to make investments that as journalists we could not ordinarily do. I was able to strengthen my research and data capabilities, my ability to request public information and my understanding of research methodology.”

The project not only supported journalists in carrying out their investigations; it also supported the training of the trainers who lead the fellowship programs.

“Internews gave me the opportunity to prepare to train journalists and then let me take advantage of the capacities developed to train more than 100 journalists from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala,” said Ximena Villagrán, one of the 15 journalists with the most experience in journalism research and data, who developed a training curriculum. “This experience has helped me to define my professional future.”

Despite the progress made in strengthening journalism, there are situations that make the work challenging in Central America. “It is becoming more and more complicated to do investigative journalism. But efforts like that from Internews can help return the essential value of investigative practice to media in the region,” said Marvin Rodriguez, a Fellow from El Salvador.

“Internews filled a space that was empty in the region, to train and support journalists,” added Villagrán. “Until the arrival of Internews there was no organization that carried out intensive training activities for journalists without having to take them out of their countries while also creating local and internal capacity.”

“Through organizations such as Internews it is possible to obtain this knowledge, make better investigations and create quality journalism for our societies that deserve and demand it,” says Mariela Castañón.

(Banner photo: Closing ceremony in City of Guatemala, Guatemala. Credit: Internews)