Social impact

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.

Social issues

In our work, we have seen countless examples of how timely and reliable information provided by MDIF clients shapes public opinion on social issues that affect people’s lives. Through fact-based, in-depth reporting and insightful opinions, independent media raise awareness, increase understanding and facilitate informed public debate that shapes how people view their society and the world around them. By shining a light on issues that are often under-reported or reported with prejudice, like the environment, gender, minorities, immigration and LGBT, our clients act as catalysts in initiating social change and helping people find peaceful solutions to social problems.

Mail & Guardian, South Africa

AUC pushed into tackling systemic discrimination

An investigation by the Mail & Guardian revealed systematic discrimination faced by female staff at the African Union Commission (AUC), an intergovernmental body designed to spearhead Africa's development and integration.

The outlet revealed the contents of two internal memos in which 37 female current and former employees had complained of routine ill-treatment, humiliation and discrimination on the basis of their gender. Following the Mail & Guardian's exclusive exposé, the AUC invited all staff members who had cases of complaint to come forward for a confidential interview. This internal investigation confirmed the staggering prevalence of sexual harassment and systemic gender discrimination within the organization. To ensure a work place environment free of discrimination, the AUC undertook steps to rewrite and reinforce its anti-harassment policies and procedures.

Himalmedia, Nepal

Enforcing transport law leads to cleaner air

A Nepali Times investigation into why Kathmandu's air quality is among the worst in the world brought pollution by public transport into the spotlight.

While mismanaged waste and unplanned urbanisation contribute to Khatmandu's air pollution, vehicle exhaust, particularly bus emissions, is the major polluter. Special 2017 coverage explored the link between better public transport and improved public health. It investigated how the efforts to modernise and streamline Kathmandu's urban transportation system and phase out smaller and older public vehicles faced opposition by transportation syndicates, which enjoy political backing. One month after publication, police began enforcing an existing law that outlawed public transportation vehicles more than 20 years old.

Himalmedia, Nepal

Exploitation of Nepalese migrant workers in Malaysia ended

Himal Khabarpatrika magazine's cross-border investigation with Malaysian news site Malysiakini detailed a corrupt collaboration between the migration agencies of the two governments with private companies that exploited Nepalese migrants.

The 2018 report revealed that over five years, around $45 million was extracted from vulnerable Nepalese seeking work in Malaysia on the pretext of fees for visas and biometric screening. The story led to a debate in the Malaysian Parliament and, later, a bilateral labor pact between the countries that ensured that Nepali migrant workers would not have to pay any fees to enter Malaysia. Malaysia's anti-graft agency arrested a former Home Minister in connection with an investigation into suspected misappropriation of funds. One of the charges related to alleged bribes of $500,000 paid by private companies involved in services for migrant workers seeking to enter Malaysia.

Nómada, Guatemala

Family separation at US border outrages public

Online news outlet Nómada showed how violence and poverty forced many to flee their homes in search of safety and stability in the US.

Yet, after travelling for weeks, thousands of children were separated from their families at the southern border as a result of a 'zero tolerance' policy introduced by the US administration. In 2018, in collaboration with the Texas Tribune and TIME, Nómada told a richly-illustrated story of an indigenous farmworker who, after crossing the border, was deported back to Guatemala, while his 7-year-old son was put in a US shelter. The coverage brought the case to the attention of a renowned lawyer, who agreed to represent the separated family pro bono. The child, now 8, has not seen his family for a year and has been in four different shelters for migrant children. Following a widespread public outcry, the US has decided to withdraw the controversial policy of family separation.

Agora, Poland

Interview prompts attorney to review a rape case

Gazeta Wyborcza published a moving interview with a rape victim of a renowned 2018 case.

The abuser, dubbed "the Polish Fritzl", was jailed for 25 years after imprisoning and raping his wife in a grim basement. With criminal proceedings conducted behind closed doors and all information classified, Wyborcza's journalist gained unprecedented access to the victim, who shared her story on condition of anonymity. In addition to describing her ordeal, the article exposed serious mistakes by the prosecutor's office, which dismissed the case twice. With rape victims often disbelieved, the article highlighted how the Polish justice system is ill-equipped to handle sexual abuse and protect women. After publication, the District Attorney reviewed the case for potential involvement of other individuals in the abuse and filed a criminal investigation into alleged misconduct by prosecutors. Moved by the article, many of Wyborcza's readers sent donations to the foundation that supports the victim and her daughters, with the collected money spent on further therapy.

Malaysiakini, Malaysia

Migrants rescued from “slave-like” conditions after investigation into human trafficking

A Malaysian factory owner was prosecuted and Indonesian police clamped down on human traffickers after Malaysiakini and news weekly Tempo revealed the trafficking of women from Indonesia.

The 2017 series of reports combined months of groundwork across the two countries, tracking migrants from their homes to Malaysian factories and investigating the money trail between the two countries. Just two days after exposing "slave-like conditions" faced by workers at a factory in Klang, Malaysia, a joint operation was conducted by the police, immigration officers and the Labour Department, leading to the arrest of the factory's owners and rescue of the workers. Charges have since been brought against the factory owner. In Indonesia, local police also cracked down on the main supply chain - companies involved in recruiting workers with false promises and sending them overseas.

El Búho, Peru

Mining project permit suspended

Peruvian regional outlet El Búho covered new wave of strikes that broke out against the $1.4 billion Tía María project, an open pit copper mine near the city of Arequipa in 2019.

Farmers, social organizations and local authorities had been demanding the definitive termination of the project due to fears of contamination of freshwater sources and agricultural land. Roadblocks and peaceful protest met with excessive violence by the law enforcement, with El Búho informing that the police used firearms on a daily basis, and that wounded people were not going to health centres due to the fear of being detained. Possibly as retribution to their coverage of the conflict, a troll army managed to get El Búho’s Facebook page banned twice. In August, the government had suspended a permit for Tía María, but then in October decided to give it a green light again. To proceed, the development still needs support from local communities.

Scroll, India

Police rely on Scroll video to prosecute caste violence

Digital news outlet Scroll's reporting on an attack on members of the Dalit community, a low-caste minority formerly known as "untouchables" led to police filing a case against several attackers.

In 2018, Dalit celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon, when Dalits helped the British defeat higher-caste elites, were marred by clashes with upper caste Hindus opposing the event, who pelted Dalits with stones and set fire to barricades. At least one person died and several others were injured. A rampaging mob ransacked and burnt down a woman's eatery, because she defied the social boycott of Dalits and kept her establishment open and continued to provide food. A Scroll reporter was on the ground to put the spotlight on caste-motivated violence and took a video of the incident. After viewing the video Scroll had recorded, the police filed a case against five people involved in the attack.

Scroll, India

Reporting highlights sexual harassment in judiciary

News portal Scroll published an article in which a former Supreme Court employee accused one of the serving Chief Justices of India of unwanted sexual advances.

The 2019 report also recounted a series of workplace suspensions and dismissals of the victim and several family members - including her husband and brother-in-law - after she resisted the advances. An in-house Supreme Court committee looking into the allegations, which quickly cleared the Chief Justice of wrongdoing, was boycotted by the victim, who claimed the process was biased. Civil society groups, lawyers and activists held a protest against the Supreme Court's decision, calling for a new and impartial probe. Soon after, without any explanation, the Delhi Police reinstated the jobs of the husband and brother-in-law of the complainant.

GK, Ecuador

Sport facility closed after sexual abuse allegations come to light

After 6 months of investigation, digital media company GK published a report that detailed the systematic abuse of girls in a gymnastics academy in Quito.

Its reporter interviewed five women who denounced sexual abuse at the hands of a well-known gym coach when they were girls. Apart from the horrifying tales of sexual assault, the report revealed the lack of oversight of private education centers and, as a result, the pervasive impunity of abusers. To break the silence, ensure accountability and prevent any further harm (the gym where the abuse took place had been in operation for more than 30 years and was still open at the time of publication), the women launched a campaign, #SeremosLasUltimas (“We will be the last”). Soon after, child protection authorities ordered the closure of the sports’ facility and prohibited the trainer to approach any of the girls who were still training. Other victims of the same gym teacher spoke out and a collective legal strategy is sought to try to overcome the 10-year statute of limitations on sexual abuse.

Colab, Brazil

Street cleaning reduces mosquito-borne viruses

Colab, a citizen-government reporting app, promoted street cleaning and garbage collection in the Municipality of Teresina to help combat the yellow fever mosquito, which can carry the dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses.

The app enabled the people of Teresina to send photos and reports of potential breeding sites of the mosquito, such as garbage pile-ups and pot holes. The tips were then used by "Clean up in the neighbourhoods", a weekly cleaning and health education initiative carried out in different parts of the city. In 2017 alone, the initiative visited 52 neighbourhoods and collected more than 3,000 tonnes of garbage. Thanks to the efforts, Teresina did not report any deaths due to dengue in 2017, and 2,717 cases of the disease represented a decrease of more than 400 cases compared to 2016.

elPeriódico de Guatemala, Guatemala

VP jailed for fraud over environmental scam

El Periódico revealed a major fraud and corruption scheme related to the clean-up of pollution at Lake Amatitlán.

When in office, Vice-President Roxana Baldetti awarded a contract worth millions of dollars to an engineering firm to decontaminate the lake. In 2017, el Periódico published an article revealing terms of the contract that had been kept secret and showed that the company would use a cleaning chemical - a solution of water, salt and chlorine - that was ineffective. The Vice-President was put on trial on fraud and influence-peddling charges. In 2018, a court sentenced her to 15 years and six months in jail for her role in what became known as the "Magic Water" scandal.

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