Social impact

Photo: Katadata/ Karyawan Katadata

Social impact

Over our two decades of working with hundreds of news companies around the world, we have seen countless examples of how independent media have a profound impact on their societies. From local news websites to national broadcasters, our clients expose corruption, hold those in power to account and encourage democratic participation. They also cover social issues that other outlets ignore or often report on with prejudice, like the environment, gender, ethnicity and LGBT. Here are some examples.

Corruption & accountability

In countless instances, we have seen independent media help curtail corruption and enhance the accountability of those in power. By unearthing stories that otherwise may remain untold, MDIF clients erode impunity and promote integrity, at the same time empowering citizens to demand justice. To report these stories, many companies we support have endured violence, prosecution, and relentless economic pressure simply for reporting in the public interest. MDIF investment and assistance helps media outlets continue to play this crucial watchdog role.

KataData, Indonesia

Changes forced in public procurement

Digital economics and business news outlet Katadata revealed serious issues in a major tender for electronic road pricing that led to a new tender and change in policy.

Its 2016 report exposed the tender as being riddled with flaws, including that it failed to use the most efficient technology and the feasibility study on which it was based was funded by a bidder in the tender. The website published in-depth reports on the process, including comparisons with other countries and special research on electronic road pricing technology. After the investigation, the authorities decided to repeat the tender process and handed decision-making powers over technology to the Ministry of Communications and Informatics.

OK Radio, Serbia

Criminal charges follow conflict of interest

Vranje-based OK Radio revealed how the director of a state-owned catering operation supplied products from a company owned by his wife without following public procurement procedures - a clear conflict of interest.

The radio station's journalists who exposed the scandal estimated that the illicit deal that had lasted for several years could have cost hundreds of thousands of euros. After the investigation, criminal charges and an indictment against the director were filed, and he was eventually removed from the post.

Agora, Poland

Cronyism during the coronavirus crisis exposed

In Poland, Daily Gazeta Wyborcza denounced the cronyism during the coronavirus crisis.

It uncovered evidence showing that the country’s Health Ministry had purchased overpriced protective masks which did not meet safety standards. The person benefitting from the transaction was the Health Minister’s ski-instructor, who had no previous experience selling medical equipment, and was paid more than three times the other offers sent to the Ministry. The Minister’s brother had played the role of middle-man and the Deputy Minister of Health finalised the transaction. Soon after, both the Minister and Deputy Minister resigned. The Prosecutor’s Office in Warsaw opened an investigation into mismanagement of public funds, but then decided to discontinue it, sparking outrage among opposition politicians who accused them of covering up crime for political ends.

TV Vijesti, Montenegro

Exposed bribery forces Minister to resign

In Montenegro, national station TV Vijesti broadcast a video showing footage of two officials asking for and accepting bribes to ease the building permit process.

In a video, the inspectors from the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism are heard demanding a kickback of 5,000 euros from a businessman who wants to construct a building in the town of Budva without a valid permit. Having failed to clamp down on corruption, Montenegro’s Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism resigned after the video was released This is the first case of a Montenegrin minister resigning due to corruption in state institutions. The following day, the two inspectors were arrested after a new procedure against them was initiated.

Scroll, India

Exposing delay in disbursement of social security pension

In India, Scroll showed how Jharkhand’s poor were left poorer during the pandemic.

It highlighted how the state government of Jharkhand failed to provide monthly pensions of Rs 1,000 per person to 1 million impoverished senior citizens, widows and people with disabilities for at least five months from July 2020. In one district, pension funds were diverted to make payments under the Centre’s Covid-19 relief package. A week after published a report on the delay in disbursement of social security pensions, the National Human Rights Commission issued a notice to the government of Jharkhand and the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, giving them six weeks to submit a detailed report on the delays.

Mail & Guardian, South Africa

Guptas’ corruption exposed

The Mail & Guardian scrutinized the inner workings of the Gupta family, who were accused of exerting undue influence and looting billions of rand of taxpayer money through their ties with President Jacob Zuma.

Leaked 2017 e-mails revealed that in an effort to stop the Mail & Guardian's reporting, which was pivotal in their exposure, the Guptas had a secret plan to buy the company and turn it into a puppet paper. South Africa's Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation initiated an investigation into the Guptas, who denied wrongdoing and claimed to be victims of a politically-motivated witch-hunt. When Jacob Zuma was removed from office, the Commission of Inquiry into state capture was established to gather evidence on how the Gupta family, who left South Africa soon after Zuma was ousted, worked with the former president to secure government contracts and determine cabinet appointments. Hearings are expected to last for several years.

Liga, Ukraine

Investigating a Ponzi scheme in Ukraine

In Ukraine, more than 600,000 people are at risk of losing their money after participating in a Ponzi scheme guised as a network of jewelry stores.

Digital outlet Liga published an in-depth investigation describing the activity of the
pyramid, with one of its journalists going undercover and becoming part of the network of its contributors. Six months later, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) blocked the illegal activities of the organised criminal group. As part of ongoing criminal proceedings, law enforcement officers conducted 48 searches. According to the SBU, 59 stores operating in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan defrauded more than $250 million, and organisers spent the money on luxury items and cars and even purchased an island on the Dnipro River in Kyiv. The persons of interest face up to 15 years in prison and confiscation of property.

Gram Vaani, India

Media platform wins compensation for workers

Community media company Gram Vaani launched a platform that increased the accountability of employers who flout rules regarding workers' rights.

Saajha Manch is a voice-based community media platform that allows workers - often underpaid and from marginalized communities - to access useful audio information on labour rights and to anonymously report abuses in their workplace, with the aim of holding employers accountable to the law. After submitting a claim, workers are provided with access to legal aid. Between August 2017 and December 2018, Saajha Manch was heard by 9,000 workers, many dialing in to listen regularly. For example, in January 2018, Saajha Manch published a news item on the sudden lay-off of 54 workers at a factory located in Okhla, New Delhi. After covering the story, it put the workers in touch with a trade union federation that could represent non-member workers. With their help, some workers won three months' compensation pay when they would have otherwise been left with nothing.

Molodoy Bukowinetz, Ukraine

Newspaper prevents unfair awarding of public contracts

Local newspaper Molodoy Bukowinetz unearthed corruption in public procurement and a system of patronage and nepotism that took precedence over the proper provision of public services.

In Chernovtsy, in the western part of Ukraine, the City Council awarded lucrative public contracts for the management and maintenance of residential buildings to two companies with suspicious backgrounds and ties to local deputies. An investigation by Molodoy Bukowinetz found that the firms were created just a few weeks before the announcement of the competition, and that at the time of submission of their bid they had neither the proper equipment, nor the experience needed to fulfill the contract. The City Council was forced to call off the contract and launch a new tendering procedure, as police opened criminal proceedings against the two businesses.

El Búho, Peru

Plagiarism leads to removal of official

Independent magazine El Búho exposed plagiarism by a senior government official that led to his removal from office.

In 2017, the outlet secured access to documents pointing to plagiarism by the country's Comptroller General, committed when he obtained his Professional Title of Certified Public Accountant. A document, which he called "Research Work", contained paragraphs that were a direct copy of training he had received soon after joining the Comptroller's Office as a financial technical analyst. After publication, the University Council formed a special commission to determine whether the work had been plagiarised, and found a series of irregularities in the process of how he obtained a degree. The investigation sparked other accusations of misconduct, after which the Comptroller General was removed from office.

Suara, Indonesia

Profit shifting in Indonesia’s pulp exports

In Indonesia, a major pulp and paper producer associated with widespread deforestation and land conflicts was exposed as having misreported its wood pulp exports while shifting large profits overseas.

Suara, together with two other MDIF-supported companies and Katadata were part of IndonesiaLeaks, a whistleblower coalition, which went through a cache of offshore documents showing suspicious transactions. The exposé showed that the company
mislabelled the more expensive dissolving pulp as cheaper paper-grade pulp to understate its revenue, reducing its tax liabilities, and to transfer the company’s profits offshore. In a statement released to the Indonesian Stock Exchange after the exposé, the company denied any wrongdoing but a few months later a coalition of 25 NGOs published an 82-page report based on the IndonesiaLeaks investigation and called on the Government to crack down on the pulp industry’s profit shifting.

GK, Ecuador

Report leads to improved handling of child abuse

In Ecuador, digital news company forced a national review of how the state responds to sexual violence on children.

In 2018, the outlet published a report that told the story of a child who was sexually abused by his teacher. The report detailed negligence by several state institutions and revealed that there was no systematic response to child sexual abuse. After publication, the Ministry of Public Health's Director of Communications personally praised for shedding light on the issue and called for negligent professionals to be held accountable. Moreover, the Ministry of Public Health modified protocols to improve care for victims of sexual violence and held workshops for hospital managers to train them on the issue and on how doctors should report suspected cases.

Insajder, Serbia

Report prompts pension fund to correct an error in its record system

While investigating the unreliability of the Serbian pension fund’s record system, Insajder uncovered the case of an older citizen who, upon applying for a disability pension, discovered that he was not in the system, despite a lifetime of paying contributions.

For four years he sought help from the authorities but only after Insajder show aired in 2019, the local Pension and Invalidity Fund office took steps to clarify his situation. Two months later the man officially received a disability pension decision, with his first payment following soon after. Unfortunately, he has not yet solved the problem of benefits for the previous four years when he did not receive any pension due to system error. "Better something than nothing. (…) If it wasn't for the help of your team I would probably still be out of the system," said the pensioner to the Insajder journalists.

More on our clients’ impacts on their societies in Media Development Impact Dashboard