Designing a sustainable business model for ‘mesmerizing’ journalism

In our latest episode of Meet the Investigators, we speak with ICIJ member Malek Khadhraoui about the founding of the mission-driven Tunisian investigative outlet Inkyfada, and its innovative business model.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists collaborates with hundreds of members across the world. Each of these journalists is among the best in his or her country and many have won national and global awards. Our award-winning monthly series, Meet the Investigators, highlights the work of these tireless journalists.

In December, we spoke with ICIJ member Malek Khadhraoui, reporter, trainer and co-founder and executive director of Inkyfada, a Tunisian magazine dedicated to investigative and long-form journalism. Conceived following the fall of Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Inkyfada is an innovative, mission-focused news organization that funds its journalism by providing cutting-edge development and design work to other media outlets. Malek and his team have been collaborating on ICIJ investigations for more than six years, both as reporting partners providing essential coverage of the Middle East and North Africa region, and also as designers and developers, providing illustrations and visuals for some of our major investigations, including most recently the Pandora Papers.

ICIJ’s award-winning Meet the Investigators series is emailed exclusively to ICIJ’s Insiders each month before being published on ICIJ.org, and is one of a number of ways we like to thank our community of supporters who are so integral to our independent journalism. You can join our Insiders community by making a donation to ICIJ.  Thanks to all our ICIJ Members who have shared their stories with us, and to all our supporters for helping ICIJ continue its work.

TRANSCRIPT

Sean McGoey: Welcome back to the Meet the Investigators podcast from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. I’m your host, Sean McGoey, and I’m an editorial fellow at ICIJ.

This month, we’re talking to a Tunisian journalist who founded an independent newsroom that has collaborated with ICIJ on groundbreaking investigations like the FinCEN Files and Panama Papers.

Malek Khadhraoui: I’m Malek Khadraoui. I’m the executive director of Inkyfada.

McGoey: Inkyfada has worked with ICIJ on seven projects dating back to the Swiss Leaks investigation in 2015. Sometimes, they’ve been a reporting partner. Sometimes, their designers have provided illustrations.

For the Pandora Papers, ICIJ’s biggest investigation ever, they pulled double duty — designing the stunning graphics behind the project while also reporting on the offshore holdings of prominent politicians and businessmen from the Middle East and North Africa.

Malek and I talked about the Pandora Papers, Inkyfada’s innovative business model and how an autocratic regime kickstarted his journalism career. Here’s our conversation.

One of the things that really has stood out to me about the Pandora Papers investigation is that the Middle East — especially Dubai, but also the larger region — is growing in influence in the world of offshore finance. Why is it so important to shine a light on that for readers?

Khadhraoui: Yeah, Dubai especially, as you mentioned, I think it’s a strategy to invest in [being] this alternative to “old-fashioned” places [like] Panama or the British Virgin Islands, which are now a little bit flagged. And it’s a very good alternative to Switzerland or Luxembourg or some of the European countries. They want to sell it as a place where you can have the same kind of quality services for this kind of people looking for secrecy, and I think Dubai is openly trying to play this role.

It’s a new alternative for the financial world to have those very friendly, not-asking-a-lot-of-questions places to put their money in.

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