The power of journalism

March 20, 2019

Written by Susana Arroyo

Three years ago, a young but daring media organization in Guatemala, Laboratorio de Medios, decided to focus its work in two areas: accountability and municipalities. Everyone thought they were crazyit was not only a seemingly very unattractive subject matter for average audiences, but it also presented a field full of obstacles (and risks). Opacity, few databases available, and government officials not used to supporting journalists or other social actors who try to build bridges between citizens and public institutions.

But they kept true to their goal and continued shaping their project: OjoConMiPisto, a native digital media that has nowadays become a reference and inspiration to journalism students all over the country, as well as among acclaimed communications professionals throughout all of Latin America.

OjoConMiPisto is a journalistic initiative that promotes transparency and the fight against corruption, inspects how local governments use municipal funds, and encourages citizen participation in Guatemala. It also provides tools to journalists, through training and accompaniment, so that they are the ones who control the quality of spending of their municipalities.

That mix of passion, accurateness, and use of information as a force for change made them one of the partners of Hivos’ Open Up Contracting Program in Guatemala. At Hivos, we were looking for infomediaries who transform data into actionable information and create a culture of accountability and transparency based in confidence, not only in efficiency…and that was OjoConMiPisto was doing.

Its project, ‘Obras bajo la lupa’ (translated: ‘Public works under the magnifying glass’), wanted to provide citizens with information and data on how their municipality contracts work, and it did. Thanks to it, junior and senior journalists have gotten together and audited 17 municipalities, sent more than 50 requests of public information and changed the practices of 15 local governments. As a result, those governments now deliver data in open formats.  

Laboratorio de Medios have not written stories about contracts, but about people: their needs, dreams, and fears. Stories about how more transparent and accountable processes of contracting can provide better quality services and goods and make people’s rights come true.

Because of all of this, Laboratorio de Medios has been awarded with four national journalism prizes in Guatemala. They’ve also won the European Union’s Civic Tech for Democracy competition in 2018.

At Hivos, we will support this network as we did with OjoConMiPisto, because we believe in infomediaries, in collaborative action, and media as one of the most transformative ways to advocate. Because we believe in the power of journalism and informed citizenship.