Investigative journalism takes money, time and skill. If you listened to your accountant, you would never do it.
Aniruddah Bahal is the founder and editor in chief of CobraPost, a non profit Indian Investigative journalism website. He was in Sydney to speak at the Storyology conference organised by the Walkley Foundation.
We try to expose stories about political corruption and religious misconduct. We want to bring accountability in our system and deepen democracy. In India, we have a lot of wasteful spending. If we can do stories pulling up organisations or people for having misspent resources, we can go a long way benefiting the Indian economy.
Cobrapost’s stories brought their journalists into conflict with India’s rich and powerful.
We did a story last year called Red Spider where twenty eight Indian banks, not one or two, were involved in money laundering. There were foreign banks involved too. It led to a big investigation by the Reserve Bank of India which fined banks big sums of money. It led to a change in processes to plug the loop holes which we exposed. The evidence was so enormous and so tightly organised they didn’t even send a legal notice to me.
But there were often threats and reprisals. Bahal said he lived with “about fifteen bodyguards”. Mostly however, he attracted the attention of government officials who launched legal actions. They waged a war of attrition against the journalists, “to suck up time and money”.
I am a novelist and instead of reading the latest fiction from around the world, I spend of lot of time reading the fiction which there people put in their affidavits.
Major stories were often launched through press releases to other media. “We dump all our material on our website but we like to share it as well”.
Bahal had been doing investigative journalism since the year 2000.
Was it exhausting?
No. I find it fun. Its my cardinal rule in journalism that if the heart of a jouralist doesn’t tick when he’s doing a big story, then he shouldn’t be in journalism, because that’s the biggest kick in our profession.