Investigative journalists play a key role in bringing corruption to light

This article was published in the International Monetary Fund’s Finance Development magazine in September 2019, Vol. 56, No. 3

In 1971, whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg discovered the so-called Pentagon Papers and spent countless nights photocopying over 7,000 pages before delivering them to The New York Times and The Washington Post. Four decades later, when an anonymous source gave German journalist Bastian Obermayer a flash drive with 11 million files taken from a Panamanian law firm, detailing shady dealings and tax-avoidance schemes used by the rich and powerful, it was too much for even his entire newsroom to process. Obermayer asked for help from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), mobilizing 250 reporters in 90 countries.

Published in April 2016, The Panama Papers revealed a large, complex, and very well-hidden corner of the global economy. The scandal resulted in the resignations of prime ministers and senior officials from Iceland to Mongolia.

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