Meeting members of the blog – 2012

On October 27, 2012, there was a meeting of members of the blog “Friends of Januária.” It was the first official meeting after the end of the course that happened in September and October 2011.

River São Francisco - City Januária-MG - Brazil

The meeting was aimed to know and train three new citizen reporters, winners of the campaign “Be A Citizen Reporter” launched the site in September 2012. Moreover, there was the training of new members and of course the use of journalistic techniques and blog with other journalists.

The meeting was supported by the NGO International Rising Voices, which paid for the “citizen reporters kits” for new members, plus materials needed for the meeting and future reports.

Material Citizen Reporter

Throughout the event were discussed numerous issues related to the blog, reporting techniques, history and future of the project, presentation of journalists, discussion guidelines, restructuring and defining tasks and other activities. At the end of a snack was served to all present.

Since the project “Friends of Januária” which happened in 2011, much has changed, the blog grew, new players have emerged, our increased presence on social networks and news reports increasingly gained credibility among the population. However, over time (2011-2012), some members left the site, but with the campaign for new members, could fill a very important gap in the project, the continuity of materials. The new journalists who now join the group were very well chosen and their stories can already be seen in www.amigosdejanuaria.wordpress.com address.

On the occasion of the meeting of members of the blog, also marked a new day for study returned editing photos and videos. The intention is that the meeting be fruitful both for learning and for the strengthening of the group. Soon be possible to give more in a matter as was the second meeting with the staff of the “Friends of Januária.”

Friends of Januária: A Year of Citizen Media

Rio São Francisco

The citizen journalism project “Friends of Januária” began in September and October 2011. Conceived by journalists Amanda Rossi and Jamila Venturini, the project received support from various agencies around the world such as the Association of Friends Januária (ASAJAN) founded by journalist Fábio Oliva (also the project coordinator and instructor), the international organization Rising Voices where our funding came from. There was also support from the NGO Article 19, E. E. Olegario Maciel (provided space for meetings) and more than 80 people who contributed through crowdfunding platform Catharsis.

Course - 2011

During the course of civic education workshops, youth from the city of Januária-MG learned to create and update blogs, write newspaper articles, access online data on public budgets, make information requests, work on social networks in order to inform the population. Besides recording videos throughout the city, the citizen journalists took photos, wrote journals, and made several reports that can be viewed via our blog: www.amigosdejanuaria.wordpress.com.

Now with a year of existence, the “Friends of Januária” has started to expand, relying on an increasing number of readers. In September (our anniversary month of the blog) many activities were held, such as the addition of two new members of the blog (new reporters), commemorative banner on facebook, special articles, and additional complete coverage of the municipal elections that took place in Brazil in 2012.

The purpose of the group “Friends of Januária” is to get more people to inform themselves and by teaching young people ways to monitor the municipal administration of their city. Through a partnership with the International NGO Rising Voices, during the month of September, some stories about the city Januária-MG were highlighted, such as: “Information on the politicians of our city“, “Beauty is not a sign of health,” “Interview with the mayoral candidates” and other reports on the council.

In October, we talked about the reality of the city through the text “Januária, the sun must be born again“, we showed the “Results of Election 2012“, we also analyzed the “ Election” even in neighboring counties. We also informed the public about the need to “Supervise the Elected Politicians“, giving tips on sites and places to get important information for these four years in office.

The numerous materials made by reporters show interest in the fight to access information for all people and show the maturity gained by young people beyond the developments that texts can generate. However, much is still to come, the “Friends of Januária” will continue its work in the coming months and will hold a meeting with members of the site where workshops will take place to improve the technical reports, the addition of two new young reporters, and other activities related to the project’s continuity.

To find out this whole process, just follow our blog (www.amigosdejanuaria.wordpress.com) or stay tuned on our social networks (facebook and twitter).

Online materials

Hi everybody!

As we prepare to the 4th weekend of the course Friends of Januária, we would like to announce that the first part of the course materials is online!

You can download it here.

It has contents on citizen journalism, how to create and post in a WordPress blog, how to submit an information request to public institution and others.

Hope you enjoy it!

Second weekend

The second weekend of the Friends of Januária project had a very special guest: Arthur Serra Massuda, from the organization Article 19, who talked to the participants about the importance of access to information to citizens and citizen journalists.

In his presentation, Arthur emphasized the idea of access to information as a right, and contextualized how it is being implemented in Brazil. He also gave access to information models made especially for journalists and some materials produced by Article 19. The idea is that the participants can use it to make research on the subjects they want to write about.

After Arthur’s presentation, Fábio Oliva showed some examples of how access to information is important to fight corruption. The participants were very interested and asked a lot of questions about their city. We also taked about the functioning of the public administration and public budget.

Our 17 young citizen journalists seemed to be very interested in learning about some of the rules governments should abide to. After some questions, we started to work on their first texts that were published on the blog: http://amigosdejanuaria.wordpress.com.

We commented on each one and gave some tips on how they can improve their writing. Amanda, Fábio, and I were very glad to see their first texts, most of them were very mature and interesting, considering that this was their first experience with journalistic texts.

The group is very excited and seems to be anxious to write more. We talked a little more about how journalism sometimes means hard work and that in some cases it will take long until they can find all the information they need for their stories.

We also had a discussion on anonymity, since we were worried that they could suffer restrictions on public services because of their work on the project. Some of them have decided not to identify themselves on the blog.

Fábio, Jamila, Sueli and Arthur after the second class

The main challenge we are facing in Januária until now is the use of computers in the class. Although we have a very nice laboratory available, a lot of the computers have software problems and the internet connection sometimes is too slow. We are trying to work on that, but because of that, the group had to post their first entries on the blog from home, since we couldn’t do that together on class. This has delayed some of the program, especially the exercises, that they are not able to start with us.

This weekend the group is in company of Fábio Oliva and Márcio Couto, from CGU, an institution that is responsible for monitoring the public administration in different areas (municipal, state, and federal). They will be talking about corruption and how to fight it!

Report on the first meetings

Friends of Januária’s course on citzen media started on September 3-4 with 14 participants excited to become reporters.

The first meeting started with a quick speech from Luiz Carlos Matos, the director of the school where the course will take place, to welcome the students. After him, Fábio Oliva and I presented ourselves and the course. The participants introduced themselves by telling their names, careers they have had or want to have once they graduate, neighborhoods they come from and something in this neighborhood they think could be different.

Panel with the things the participants would like to be different in their neighborhood.

Their answers opened a discussion on the importance of the citizen journalist to their communities. From that, we started to talk about what is citizen journalism and how it can provide more information to people.

We followed this subject with a quick activity in which the participants had to research on the internet what information they found about Januária. After this, the group started discussing the role of the mass communication companies and some questions arose:

  • What is a news story?
  • Who determines what is or what is not news?
  • Where to find news?
  • How to write news?

In order to answer this, Fábio and I talked about some foundations of journalism, such as: its commitment to the public interest and truth; the selection of a subject and the structure of the news.

Finnaly, the participants talked about their experiences with internet and blogs and created their accounts on WordPress to start participating on the Friends of Januária’s blog.

On this first day, all the participants received a kit with a folder, a notebook, a pen, and the first volume of the book we made for the project. The ones who were selected to participate in the course (besides them we invited three people to participate as visitors to the course) also received a book on how to fight corruption in small cities (that were donated to the project by Amigos de Ribeirão Bonito NGO) and a pen-drive.

On Saturday, the participants also decided what time the classes would be and what would be the tolerance for delays. They agreed with some basic rules for the course, too.

The local TV channel of Januária – TV Norte – registered the first activities of the course and interviewed Fábio, myself, and two of the young participants to know what were their expectations.

Getting started!

On Sunday at 8 a.m., the young journalists were all together again to start working!

The day started with a quick chat on what is journalistc research and how to do interviews. After that, the group was divided in three smaller ones to prepare a field activity in which they would search for news in Januária by interviewing people and taking pictures of what called their attention.

Bellow are some pictures took by them during this activitiy:

Each group received equipments to register the interviews and take pictures. For about an hour they walked around Januária’s downtown looking for subjects to develop for their stories.

At the end, they met again to share with each other what they had found during their walk. We took notes on the subjects and each participant chose one to research and write about during the week.

Course materials: guide to citizen journalism and book about the fight against corruption

As you all know, the project’s workshops will start tomorrow! Today, we organize the course materials that will be given to each student: a pratical guide to citizen journalists written by the project’s team, one book called “The Fight Against Corruption in Brazilian Towns” and a flash drive. We also bought two cameras and one hand cam! Can’t wait to use these materials with the students!

Announcing the participants

We are very happy to announce that we already have the list of 15 participants of Friends of Januária’s project.

In the selection process we analized the answers the applicants gave to a form. Our basic requirements were age (since we wanted to work with young people from Januária) and school grade. Besides that, we analized the candidates’ opinions on subjects related to the project.

Although this wasn’t a requirement to participate on the project, we also priorized the candidates that had some previous experience in political or communitary activities and social movements. According to some partners that had other experiences in capacity buildings projects in Brazil, a great dificulty is to make people commit to a hole course. Their experiences showed that people who are related to other organizations might take more seriously their commitment to the project.

Among the selected ones, we have young people from 17 to 26 years old and all of them have finished or will finish high school this year.

We were are very glad with the application process we were able to take in Januaria: at the end of 23 days, 51 candidates applied to it.

One of the questions we made the candidates answer to apply was was “How did you got to know the project?”, so we could evaluate the efficiency of our publicity. At the end we had the following results:

21 through a poster we put on important places for our target public (such as schools)
12 through the internet
5 through the radio
15 through TV
1 through other media

The variety of media in which these 51 people got to know the project makes us believe that we had a significative publicity. So we are very happy that ended up well too, since we had some dificulties in the middle of this proccess.

Our classes will start this weekend (September 3rd and 4th) so soon we will have more news to tell!

Corrupt as any other Brazilian town

This is the second part of the interview we did with Fábio Oliva, who is an investigative journalist, active blogger (http://blogdofabiooliva.blogspot.com/) and founder of the Friends of Januária Association (Asajan). Asajan has been fighting corruption and monitoring public expenditures in Januária for seven years. In this part, Fábio says “the same corruption that exists in Januária exists in every brazilian town”. What is different in Januária is that the town’s citizens started to monitor the public administration and, as a consequence, begin to discover corruption cases. Click here to read the first part.

How was it, starting up Asajan?
It was easy when it came to finding evidence and difficult when it came to raising awareness among the population. In relation to evidence, there had been some people in Januária collecting documents for a long time by the time we started. They had also been making formal accusations at various federal offices in change of accountability and control. However, these people had not achieved any positive results. Sometimes, the reason for that was that they didn’t know what were the right procedures to make formal accusations and they ended up sending the documents to the wrong offices. When Asajan started, we received three boxes full of documents, collected by Suely Pereira de Almeira, a former health councilor. Those documents gave us the ammunition for a series of formal accusations e lawsuits – actually, they were so well written that they are still yielding positive results.

What was the first reaction of people from Januária to Asajan’s work?
Many people used to tell us that, even though the work we had been doing was very beautiful, we would not achieve any positive results. What they used to say was: the reality of the town had always been like that and will always be like that. “There is no chance”. They would not believe that things could really change! Anyway, we had to motivate ourselves to continue our work. However, at the end of the day, Januária people started to think differently. The change in thinking happened in 2006, two years after the foundation of Asajan. That year, the mayor of Januária was put in jail by the Federal Police – Asajan helped to investigate him. Besides the mayor, the authorities also put in jail a group of businessmen who were embezzling money from the education budget. It was not the first time Asajan helped to remove a corrupt politician from office. From 2004 to 2006, the Association was successful in the dismissal of other mayors. However, it was the first time that a mayor was put in jail – and people usually think that there is no punishment if there is no prison time.

What happened next?
After this detention, people from Januária started to protest. It was the first time in 145 years of the town’s history that a mayor and a group of businesspeople were put in jail because of corruption. This fact gave people the courage they needed to act. We begin to hold public demonstrations with 700, 800 people on the streets, something that had never happened before in the town. Besides that, people started to go to the Public Prosecution Office on their own to make formal accusations. Before, only Asajan would make formal accusations – people would come to us first. This change happened because people started to believe in the fight against corruption and in Asajan’s work. I think that the biggest legacy Asajan will leave to the people of Januária is that they started to believe that it is possible to change and to punish corruption. It it not important to “own” the idea, the important thing is that the work remains even if those that started it go away. What is important is that people continue to be mobilized and that they believe.

It is really remarkable that Januária had 7 different mayors in the last 8 years. Why did that happen in Januária?
Before, I used to think that Januária was the most corrupt town in Brazil. Then, I started to be invited to give lectures and to help create NGOs to fight corruption in other Brazilian towns (Asajan helped create other 6 “associations of friends” in the North of Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Ceará) and I changed my mind. I started to think that Januária is not the most corrupt town in Brazil. The same corruption that exists in Januária exists in every Brazilian town. The reason why many mayors were dismissed from office in Januária is that its citizens got excited about keeping track of the public administration. In any place where there is oversight, mayors will be dismissed. Besides, we developed an investigation technique that helped a lot. Until 2004, when Amarribo was created in Ribeirão Bonito, to dismiss corrupt politicians and put them in jail was not common at all in Brazil. Today, the situation is very different. If you watch and read the news, you will find everyday a report about a Brazilian mayor who got dismissed or a politician and a businessman that got arrested. Despite the high number of politicians who were dismissed from office in Januária, what we observe is that the corruption cases we find out about are those where corruption “went wrong”. There is also the corruption that was successful, that nobody discovered and never will.

How is this investigation technique?
We gather all the evidence about the case we are investigating. Then, we give them to the state attorneys. The only thing we cannot do is interview witnesses – this has to be done by the state attorneys. By giving them the evidence, we can speed up the process. Another important thing is that the network of “Associations of Friends” helps us investigate (read about the “Association of Friends” model and how it has spread to almost 180 towns in Brazil). For example, the state attorneys is suspicious about a company which has contracts with the town’s administration. Its documents says it is located in another state. To check if the company is a” ghost” or not (legitimate ou not), it would be necessary to take a photo its [physical] address. However, the Public Prosecution Office does not have a big enough work force. On the other hand, the network of “Association of Friends” is spread across the country and can easily do it. Besides, it is easy to get access to information in some public institutions nowadays, which helps us investigate. For example, you can download on the internet data about any Brazilian company. You can see who the partners are, if they are family relatives of any politician, if they had already been involved in any corruption case in other towns…

(to be continued…)

Great news!

We are sorry we took so long to update the blog! Meanwhile, we worked a lot and many good things happened. As a result, we have great news!

First, we were successful in gathering collective support for the project. Do you remember that we put it on a Brazilian crowdfunding site, called Catarse, in June (http://catarse.me/en/projects/198-amigos-de-januaria-jornalismo-cidadao)? Our objective was to ask for extra support, especially because the final RV grant ended up being a little bit smaller than the amount we asked for and we would need more money to do the project the way we had planned before. At Catarse, the amount we asked to be funded was R$ 3.500. We had 45 days to raise it – the deadline was 15 August.

We raised 9% more than we asked for

And we got it! By that date, we raised R$ 3.805 (9% more). The money were donated by 80 people, based around Brazil and also in other countries. We would like to thank everybody that helped us, by donating or by helping us publicize the project. Since Catarse has some administrative fees and we will offer rewards to those who supported us, the sum of money that became available to the project is R$ 3.400 (something like US$ 2,125). We are using these funds to buy multimedia equipment, print better course materials and help trainers pay for their accommodation.

Other good news is that 51 young people applied to participate to the project. We are very excited! As the project will train 15 citizen reporters, we are deciding who are those that will be called to be part of it, based on the answers they gave on their application forms. Soon, we will announce the selected participants.

More news: we ended the first part of the course material and we will make it available online soon. We also gained support from Amarribo (see here what we wrote about this association in May: http://rising.globalvoicesonline.org/januaria/2011/05/22/associations-of-friends-a-successful-model-to-fight-corruption/), which will donate 15 books called “The Fight Against Corruption at Brazilian Municipalities”. Finally, we are trying to organize a special lecture by a Brazilian institution that has a very important role in fighting corruption in the country (we will give more information about this soon!).

And it is important to remember you that the project will really begin next week!!! Time flies, doesn’t it! On September 3-4th, Jamila Venturini and Fabio Oliva will give the first class in Januária. Stay connected, because from now on we will have much more news! And the citizen reporters will start to produce news about the project and also about their city!

New poster to announce the project in Januária

This week, Januária’s schools and colleges will receive this poster. It invites students to subscribe at the Friends of Januária project, which will take place in September and October, at Olegário Maciel Public School. It says: “Learn journalism skills and how to use digital tools that help to monitor what happens in your town – for example, how public resources are being spent”. To subscribe, the student must be studying at the last semester of High School or he must have graduated between 2008 and 2010. We already sent 120 of these posters to 10 schools and asked them to put them up at their classrooms. Subscriptions can be done until 19/08 at our new blog (in Portuguese): http://amigosdejanuaria.wordpress.com.