Sweden introduced the law which abolishes censorship and guarantees freedom of speech in 1766. It was approximately 100 years before the USA and Russian Empire abolished slavery. This fact remained to be a raw number in my mind before the last week, when by a happy opportunity provided by Swedish Institute I took part in Gräv-2015, an annual seminar on investigative journalism that took place in Jönköping. Two days among best professionals of media scope, international guests and friends from SI network for future leaders gave me a new passion and a new vision of journalist profession.
This event is something like Oscar award ceremony in area of media investigations. This year the event hosted more than 600 Swedish and international journalists who had two days to share their achievements, visions, concerns and to get a glimpse of how this professional direction works in other countries. The seminar provided also unique networking possibility not only for media representatives, but also for SI alumni and students, who had many additionally planned spots in the program.
Thus, before the seminar begun members of SI NFGL were warmly welcomed at Södra Vätterbygdens Folkhögskola which is famous for supplying Swedish market with the highest quality journalists for several decades already. The next day representatives of Swedish Association of Investigative Journalism kindly provided NFGL members with a workshop, where we learned more about their latest projects, tactical tricks and ethical principles of investigative journalism. Also we had a trip to Gränna – the motherland of well-known candies “polkagris”, the name of which, by the way, may be translated as a “dancing polka pig”. The other attraction of Gränna is S. A. Andrée’s Polar Exhibition. It is a small museum of a touching story about three courageous explorers who set up to a dangerous north expedition at the end of nineteenth century.
The agenda for two-days seminar was planned so tightly, that we barely remembered about sun eclipse that was a last-week sensation. Nevertheless, such high pace program was more than worthy. Every hour each of five locations hosted a new session, one of which was always in English. The very first one was hold by Henk van Ess, a media expert from the Netherlands, who taught us how to be cool-as-FBI and to search quickly for people and information in Internet, and, especially, on Facebook. The other intriguing session was a panel discussion about investigative journalism in Ukraine and Russia, its realities, chances and challenges. Ukrainian media were represented by a writer from newspaper Kyiv Post while Russian representatives were from online media resource Novaya Gazeta. Remarkable, that in spite of the widest possibilities for political discussions caused by tricky questions and burning issues in different parts of the world, the overall atmosphere of the seminar was not merely tolerant, but extremely ethical and professional. Among other sessions to remember were presentation of documentary about ISIS, workshop on advanced Excel usage, lecture about specifics of reporting from Middle East and many others.
During the the first day lunch break NFGL members had a possibility to meet Swedish journalists and to learn more about their work. I personally got chance to talk to future winners in category “National radio” Markus Hansson and Sofia Boo, who conducted an investigation about how curators of the execution of suspended sentences used illegal methods to rest in luxury hotels.
The award ceremony was the fanciest show I’ve ever seen live. Nicely served tables, huge screens and magic lights made it look magical. But this was not the main thing. What appeared to me more important, is the fact that all those beautiful people who were being awarded, photographed and interviewed that night, all of them did something significant for the society they live in. I got the feeling that this ceremony pretty much corresponded to Swedish society’s values, where trueness and simplicity are in bigger favour than glory and richness. Most of investigative stories presented during the award ceremony were about local issues: emergency personnel, bakeries, school accidents or people who are well known only in Sweden. I might be wrong, but for me it was a sign not only of society’s welfare (which is an obvious fact about Sweden), but also of its humanism, which enables media to pay interest to local unfairness and small tragedies which are life-breaking to particular people. Just like the investigation of Kerstin Weighl, from Aftonbladet, who together with her college wrote about every single women in Sweden who had become a victim of domestic murder in past decade.
Being a holder of SI scholarship for master studies in Sweden gives you a chance to participate in the most innovative events of the region. It provides a possibility to make new contacts, obtain insights for own personal and professional development and, what’s more important, to see the never-ending diversity of human opinions, achievements and passions. It inspires you to move forward. And this is exactly what happened to me during International seminar on investigative journalism Gräv-2015.