Support and promotion of independent investigative journalism

CIINFO in a nonprofit organization created in 2008 to organize independent centers to carry out investigative journalism and other forms of high-quality journalism in the public interest. CIINFO supports journalists and organizations who share our professional values and are engaged in journalism in their own countries, especially in Latin America. CIINFO conducts workshops and specialized training in investigative reporting methods, especially the development of projects to uncover corruption, human rights violations,  and abuse of power in the public and private sectors. Our training emphasizes the systematic use of  transparency and access to information laws,  data base reporting, and internet publication. 

Leadership and Board of Directors, CIINFO

John Dinges, Columbia University, chair and executive director

Peter Hakim, Inter-American Dialogue, treasurer

Thomas Blanton, National Security Archive, secretary

Peter Eisner, author

Pascale Bonnefoy, ICEI, U. Chile

Dagmar Thiel, Fundamentos

(affiliations for identification only)

CIPER and AchivosChile

The Center has a track record of successful projects in support of investigative journalism in Latin America. The CIINFO model for independent and professional investigations was developed for the establishment in 2007 of the Centro de Investigación e Información Periodística (CIPER) in Chile. CIPER’s staff of well-paid full-time reporters produced more than 100 investigations during the time it was associated with CIINFO, and received major recognition, including the prestigious New Journalism prize from the Fundación Gabriel García Márquez para el Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (Fundación Gabo).

CIINFO executive director John Dinges established a second investigative center, ArchivosChile, in association with the journalism faculty (ICEI) of the University of Chile. The new center focused on the systematic use of Chile´s new Transparency and Access to Information law to search for hitherto secret documents in government archives from the period of military dictatorship (1973-1990). Major investigations included the publication of more than 150 “Secret Laws” used by the dictatorship to conceal hundreds of millions of dollars in financial transfers from the national treasury to the military; the revelation of Chile’s “Burocracia de la Muerte”, the Death Bureaucracy, used by the military to channel more than a thousand executions through the official procedures of body recover, autopsy and burial following the military takeover in September 1973.    

CIINFO and ArchivosChile also support large scale investigative projects by individual journalists and authors. Among these projects: the “Condor Years” investigations by John Dinges, resulting in his 2004, 2005, 2021 and (forthcoming) 2022 books in Spanish and English.  

Other CIINFO partnerships and collaborations are listed below. 

The CIINFO Model

A premise of CIINFO’s projects is the unmet need, especially in Latin America, for high quality investigative journalism in support of healthy democracies. CIINFO’s model for independent centers grew out of the realization that the plethora of programs for teaching investigative journalism in universities and training working journalists in newsrooms has not been sufficient. Though important for other reasons, these training programs did not significantly increase the quantity and quality of investigative work by established news media. Nor did existing media in Latin America adequately support rigorous, nonpartisan investigative journalism as part of newsroom routines.  In-house investigative units, created in some newspapers in recent decades, have proven to be unstable institutionally and of short-lived effectiveness in most cases.  

CIINFO’s projects in the 2000s were pioneering initiatives to remedy these deficiencies. At the heart of our model is the strengthening of journalism to support democracy, in accordance with following these professional principles and operational guidelines: 

Institutional practices

  • Creation of investigative journalism centers that are independent of established media but work in cooperation with them;
  • Creation of competitively-paid jobs in journalism for professionals whose experience qualifies them to do top investigative work.
  • Nonprofit financial status that incorporates both national and international funding sources;
  • Operating partnerships with select universities and media organizations;
  • Participation and leadership in the growing  international network of independent journalism initiatives.
  • Contribution to the future of quality journalism by pioneering innovation in the digital environment and on-line media.

Journalistic standards

  • Implementation of ethical and professional guidelines requiring, for example, minimal use of anonymous sources, rigorous verification of information, and (especially) nonpartisan criteria in the selection of topics and conduct of investigations.
  • Systematic pursuit of information vital to the citizens of a free society, scrutiny and exploration of the public and private institutions that most effect ordinary citizens, the active defense of transparency in these institutions, and the advocacy of public access to all levels of information generated by tax-supported entities.

Professional salaries

We accomplish these projects in workplaces that provide decently paid opportunities for journalists early in their career and competitive salaries for those at the top of the profession.  Central to the model is training in investigative journalism and in the systematic use of access to information and transparency laws. On-line publication and distribution of material through social media is an integral part of all projects, stemming from the conviction that the future of journalism in support of democratic societies depends on the development of independent, high-quality journalism in the digital realm.

Tax-exempt status:

CIINFO is been certified by the IRS as a tax-exempt public charity under section 501(c)3 of the tax code.

Financial Support

Major funders for CIINFO projects include the Open Society Institute and the Ford Foundation.

Its main office is in Washington, DC. Contact: John Dinges, executive director. CIINFO, 4208 45th St. NW, Washington, DC 20016. Email: director (at) ciinfojournalism.com.

ArchivosChile has offices at the Instituto de Comunicación e Imagen (ICEI) of the University of Chile, Santiago, Chile. Contact: Pascale Bonnefoy, coordinator and chief investigative reporter. Email: pascale.bonnefoy (at) gmail.com