Diary of an ‘undercover’ visit

Every now and then, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, the famous undercover journalist from Ghana, got a bit cross during his ZAM-invited visit to the Netherlands last week. “I want to ask: who made these rules,” he countered when ethical questions around ‘going undercover’ were raised during a debating evening in Amsterdam event venue De Zwijger. “We are talking about my society, Ghana. In my society we expose injustice in this way. You had your social struggles here in Holland- let us have ours.”

Anas has made global headlines more than once with his undercover-camera-stints as a cleaner in a brothel, a patient in a mental hospital, a gangster in a cocoa smuggling ring and a client of quack doctors and corrupt vehicle licensing officials. His hard-hitting material, aired on TV in Ghana as well as by Al Jazeera, CNN and the BBC, has led to arrests of criminals and corrupt bureaucrats as well as to better laws and regulations.

And now he was in Holland, engaging with audiences ranging from Journalism Masters students at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam to a wider public at the ‘De Zwijger’ event – which was co-hosted with One World and the Dutch association of investigative journalists VVOJ-, a film afternoon in the Amsterdam Lloyd Hotel and a number of newsrooms at Dutch media houses, with a particular enthusiastic and sparkly lunch meeting with the entire team of new Dutch newsmaker De Correspondent. ZAM found to its obvious delight that there is increasing interest among Dutch media, -both mainstream and social-, in sourcing African investigative stories for publication in the Netherlands.

We at ZAM acted as tour guides, not just for him but for his much quieter –but no less interesting- fellow visitor, Selay Kouassi, he of the explosive ‘FairTrade Chocolate Rip-Off’ report that exposed FairTrade as a scam and was nominated for the Dutch journalism prize De Tegel. The duo got some attention from Dutch media again this time: the Volkskrant published a blog on the De Zwijger evening and the Parool interviewed Anas.

It was a riveting week, in which the couple dealt with questions ranging from ‘but if FairTrade doesn’t help, what must we eat then?’ to “When are you going to catch the biggest fish in corruption?” and “Isn’t it dangerous what you do?” The answers, we know now, after a week of running around morning, day and night, are: “Maybe it is not about eating,” “There is no such thing,” and “Yes.”

ZAM is inspired and cannot wait to host more colleagues from the African Investigative Publishing Collective (AIPC) that is our partner in liaising with Africa’s foremost investigative journalists.  Said Anas and Kouassi: “We liked it here as well.”

ZAM Reporter