ICIJ · The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

The Panama Papers Reading List

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Panama Papers Wins Pulitzer Prize

The honor is a testament to the enterprise and teamwork of our staff and our partners here in the U.S. and around the world, ICIJ's director says.

Awards and recognition

The Panama Papers project, led by ICIJ and German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung working in collaboration with more than 100 media outlets, has been honored with awards and finalist mentions by more than a dozen major international prizes, including:

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Where Are They Now? A Year Later, Mixed Fortunes For Panama Papers Line-Up

One year after the Panama Papers first became an international catchphrase, here’s a globe-hopping update on the people and institutions caught up in the scandal.

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VIDEO: Twelve Months of Investigations, Impact and Outrage

A year ago the Panama Papers dominated newspaper headlines and brought now-iconic images to TV screens around the world. Since then, investigations have continued and outrage has grown.

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Panama Prosecutor Claims 'Solid Case' Against Mossack Fonseca

The law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers affair, sold shell companies and held bank accounts that were used to help conceal bribes paid across South America, a Panamanian prosecutor alleged at a press conference.

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Founders of Panama Papers Law Firm Arrested on Money Laundering Charges

Police in Panama arrested the founders of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the center of the Panama Papers scandal, on money laundering charges Thursday after authorities raided the firm’s headquarters as part of investigations into Brazil’s largest-ever bribery scandal.

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Tax Agencies Draw Up ‘Target List’ of Offshore Enablers

Tax agencies from 30 countries convened in Paris this week to take part in the largest ever simultaneous exchange of tax information and to share results and details on thousands of investigations sparked by the Panama Papers.

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Panama’s Revolving Door Shows Global Challenge of Offshore Reform

In a country where top-drawer lawyers move freely between high government posts and law firms selling secrecy-cloaked shell companies, bringing lasting change to the offshore industry is a challenge.

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Journalists Hang Tough in Face of Backlash Against Panama Papers Reporting

Reporters have faced consequences both in nations where media crackdowns are common and also in nations with reputations for high levels of press freedom.

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Panama Papers Have Had Historic Global Effects — and the Impacts Keep Coming

The investigation has produced an almost daily drumbeat of regulatory moves, follow-up stories and calls by politicians and activists for more action to combat offshore financial secrecy.

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BVI Hits Mossack Fonseca With Largest Fine Ever After Panama Papers Investigation

The $440,000 penalty followed a six-month investigation which included on-site compliance inspections and the appointment of an officer to monitor Mossack Fonseca's operations.

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Experts Who Quit Panama's Transparency Commission Produce Their Own Report

Report's authors say that the U.S. and EU have the power to force other nations to embrace transparency reforms by threatening to cut off access to their financial systems.

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Pakistan's PM Responds to Supreme Court Hearing on Panama Papers

Nawaz Sharif defended himself before the nation’s highest court, as opposition supporters celebrated in Islamabad.

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Panama Hires PR Firm Amid Ongoing Panama Papers Fallout

A PR firm is being paid $50,000 a month to help the Panama government, while arrests, protests and more continue around the world.

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Hedge Fund Sues Mossack Fonseca For Alleged Obstruction of Justice in Nevada

Confidential emails revealed in the Panama Papers have opened a new front in a bitter court battle in Nevada involving a hedge fund led by an American billionaire, new court filings show.

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Experts Quit Panama's Transparency Committee Over Lack of Transparency

The committee was established in the wake of the Panama Papers to probe Panama's financial services industry, but now two out of three international members have resigned.

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Continent of Secrets: Uncovering Africa's Offshore Empires

Africa receives $50 billion of foreign aid money annually, but then loses roughly the same amount through illicit outflows. Can you uncover Africa's offshore empires? Play now!

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Secret Offshore Deals Deprive Africa of Billions in Natural Resource Dollars

The Panama Papers show how politicians and mining, oil and gas interests benefit from secrecy and dubious multimillion dollar transfers.

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Secret Documents Expose Nigerian Oil Mogul’s Offshore Hideaways

A dealmaker’s backstage maneuverings are revealed in the Panama Papers as he hung with celebrities while criminal investigators closed in.

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Diamond Mine with Offshore Ties Leaves Trail of Complaints

The Panama Papers reveal a network of shell companies linked to a mining operation that has been accused of environmental harms and unpaid taxes.

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Out of Africa, Into Tax Havens

As visitors come to see what’s in Africa, some safari operators’ profits head offshore.

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Reporters Warned, Inquiries Opened as African Nations Respond to Panama Papers

Mossack Fonseca targeted clients in Africa for business, but now some of those clients have become targets themselves as authorities launch investigations into the Panama Papers revelations.

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Panama Papers Credited As New EU Anti Money-Laundering And Tax Abuse Rules Proposed

The European Commission has announced it will tighten the European Union’s anti-money laundering rules and increase transparency requirements for companies and trusts.

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Venezuela and Panama To Launch Joint Panama Papers Investigation

The joint investigation will be the "first of its kind," and Venezuela's attorney general has hinted at a long list of suspects.

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European Inquiry to Call UK Chancellor, Mossack Fonseca to Testify

A special 65-member Panama Papers committee of inquiry has been created by the European parliament to investigate potential wrongdoing exposed by ICIJ's investigation.

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Mossack Fonseca's US Operations Under Pressure, Island Offices Closed

Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca’s local affiliate in Nevada has resigned from more than 1,000 companies and paid a penalty to the state amid investigations on multiple fronts.

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US States Under Pressure As World Pushes For Financial Transparency

Nevada, Wyoming and Delaware are facing growing pressure over their lack of corporate transparency, as the United States and the international community continue to respond to fallout from the Panama Papers.

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The Malefactors of Mossack Fonseca

Meet The Dutchman, the Queen of the South, the Boss of Bosses and other convicted felons and alleged wrongdoers who have benefited from services provided by the law firm.

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Panama Papers Include Dozens of Americans Tied to Fraud and Financial Misconduct

Mossack Fonseca's files include offshore companies linked to at least 36 Americans accused of serious financial wrongdoing, including fraud and racketeering.

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Beyond Panama: Unlocking the world’s secrecy jurisdictions

The 21 jurisdictions covered by the Panama Papers data vary from the rolling hills of Wyoming to tropical getaways like the British Virgin Islands. But all have at least one thing in common - secrecy is the rule.

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Panama Papers Source Offers Documents To Governments, Hints At More To Come

The anonymous whistleblower behind the Panama Papers has conditionally offered to make the documents available to government authorities.

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US Officials React to Panama Papers Disclosures With Get-Tough Proposals

The Obama administration has proposed a national registry documenting the real owners of shell companies and other measures aimed at fighting offshore chicanery.

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Iceland’s First Lady Linked to Offshore Investments

Records in the Panama Papers and the Swiss Leaks leaked files tie the wife of Iceland President Ólafur Grímsson to offshore companies and accounts.

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Coming Soon: ICIJ to Release Panama Papers Offshore Companies Data

The database, to be released on May 9, will likely be the largest ever release of secret offshore companies and the people behind them.

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Cartel-Linked Suspects Arrested After Panama Papers Revelations

Uruguayan prosecutors are seeking to bring to trial at least five individuals detained on suspicion of laundering money for a powerful Mexican drug cartel.

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US Prosecutor Opens Investigation Into 'Panama Papers Matters'

ICIJ welcomes the interest from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office, but has made it clear it won't be turning over its data or taking part in any investigation.

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Banks Ordered to Provide Info on Panama Dealings to NY Regulator

More than a dozen banks identified in the Panama Papers investigation have been asked to hand over details of their communications with Mossack Fonseca.

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Art held offshore

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Pakistan's PM Leaves Country, Spanish Minister Resigns

Nawaz Sharif faces growing pressure and calls for his resignation, a Spanish minister has stepped aside, and more governments are pledging reform as fallout from the Panama Papers revelations continues.

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Panama Police Raid Mossack Fonseca As Global Fallout Continues

The search of Mossack Fonseca's Panama headquarters comes after a number of raids and official action taken in response to the Panama Papers revelations.

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Global joint investigation to be proposed at special tax meeting

Tax officials from 28 nations met in Paris to develop a strategy for collaborative action based on Panama Papers revelations.

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British PM Announces New Transparency Measures Following Panama Papers Revelations

David Cameron appeared before parliament on Monday to address concerns about his own links to offshore holdings revealed in the Panama Papers, as well as announce reform aimed at boosting transparency.

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The Art of Secrecy

Locked in the files of a Panama law firm are the answers to mysteries involving Van Goghs, Picassos, Rembrandts and other masterworks.

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Panama Papers Spark High-Level FIFA Resignation and Swiss Police Raid

Swiss police searched the office of Europe's top soccer association and a member of FIFA's ethics panel resigned following Panama Papers revelations.

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Leaked Files Offer Many Clues To Offshore Dealings by Top Chinese

Eight current and former members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the country's top decision makers, have relatives with secret offshore companies.

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Spies and Shadowy Allies Lurk in Secret With Help From Offshore Firm

Firm helps CIA operatives and other characters — real or fanciful — from the world of espionage set up offshore companies to obscure their dealings.

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Iceland Prime Minister Tenders Resignation Following Panama Papers Revelations

The prime minister of Iceland said he would resign following mass protests triggered by reports from ICIJ and partners that he had owned an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands with his wife.

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Law Firm’s Files Include Dozens of Companies and People Blacklisted by U.S. Authorities

Global law firm’s customers include suspected financiers of terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferators and gunrunners.

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How Family that Runs Azerbaijan Built an Empire of Hidden Wealth

Documents peel away three layers of secret ownership in a conglomerate and lead to gold mines and overseas real estate.

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Global Banks Team with Law Firms To Help the Wealthy Hide Assets

Leaked records show that hundreds of banks and their subsidiaries and branches registered nearly 15,600 shell companies.

About this project

The Panama Papers is an unprecedented investigation that reveals the offshore links of some of the globe’s most prominent figures.

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All Putin’s Men: Secret Records Reveal Money Network Tied to Russian Leader

Complex offshore financial deals channel money and power towards a network of people and companies linked to President Vladimir Putin.

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Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption

Millions of documents show heads of state, criminals and celebrities using secret hideaways in tax havens.

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Panamanian Law Firm Is Gatekeeper To Vast Flow of Murky Offshore Secrets

Files show client roster that includes drug dealers, Mafia members, corrupt politicians and tax evaders — and wrongdoing galore.

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Leak Ties Ethics Guru to Three Men Charged in FIFA Scandal

Secret documents show how deeply the world of soccer has become enmeshed in the world of offshore havens.

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Iceland’s Prime Minister Ducks Question But the Answer Catches Up with Him

He came to power after the country’s financial collapse while hiding his offshore holdings of millions in bonds from Icelandic banks.

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How the One Percenters Divorce: Offshore Intrigue Plays Hide and Seek with Millions

Firm that practices no matrimonial law nonetheless plays big role when the superrich around the globe decide to split.

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Journalists Hang Tough in Face of Backlash Against Panama Papers Reporting

Reporters have faced consequences both in nations where media crackdowns are common and also in nations with reputations for high levels of press freedom

By

In late July, Moussa Aksar, the director of Niger’s L’Évènement newspaper, answered his phone and heard a familiar voice warning him that he was, once again, in danger.

“Be careful,” a friendly source told Aksar. “Look out for yourself and be careful what you say on the phone.”

Aksar had just published Niger’s first exposé from the Panama Papers, the investigation based on a leak of documents from a law firm that has helped politicians, oligarchs and fraudsters create and use secrecy-veiled shell companies.

The July 25 edition of Aksar’s newspaper featured a front-page story highlighting previously unknown details regarding an offshore company linked to a businessman reputed to be a major financier of Niger’s ruling political party. Copies of the paper sold out within hours.

Many citizens were delighted by the revelations. Others took aim.

“Moussa Aksar is reportedly hiding,” one Facebook user wrote, accusing Aksar of being wanted by the police for his reporting. “Has he lost his ability to make up fake stories?” laughed another. Another accused him of blackmail. Aksar suspects he was followed. He told his two daughters to lock the door and to unleash the family’s guard dogs.

Aksar and his newspaper aren’t alone among the journalists and news outlets that have been hit with blowback in response to their work on the Panama Papers investigation, the largest collaboration of journalists in history.

articles/00Impact/161201-backlash-02.jpgEven as the Panama Papers disclosures have sparked at least 150 investigations in 79 countries around the world, they have also provoked pushback from individuals and governments displeased with revelations of the hidden economic holdings of the global elite. Politicians, business executives and thousands of their supporters have responded with vitriol, threats, cyberattacks and lawsuits, according to a survey by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which coordinated the Panama Papers investigation.

These hardline reactions are part of a continuing pattern around the world of threats and suppression targeting journalists, like Aksar, who fight to tell uneasy stories. Niger authorities jailed Aksar for six days in 2008, for example, for his reporting on corruption and trafficking in fake medicines and black market babies.

“We are tracking the impact of Panama Papers and the retaliation journalists and media organizations are suffering,” said Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Sadly, we find it par for the course that journalists are under attack for reporting on corruption. We know that it is one of the most dangerous beats for journalists.”

One of the most unexpected flashpoints to emerge from the Panama Papers is in Spain where Grupo Prisa, the parent company of major newspaper El País, announced plans to sue ICIJ’s media partner, El Confidencial, for $9 million. According to El Confidencial, Grupo Prisa acknowledged the accuracy of El Confidencial’s reporting but claimed that Panama Papers revelations tying an offshore company to the ex-wife of Grupo Prisa’s chairman, Juan Luis Cebrián, amounted to unfair competition.

Cebrián’s ex-wife linked the company to Cebrián’s business and said that she had no role in its operations, a claim Cebrián denies. Both newspapers are fighting for the top spot in Spain’s news market. El Confidencial reported that Grupo Prisa claimed it lost readers and suffered economic loss because of El Confidencial’s reporting on the Panama Papers. Grupo Prisa declined to respond to ICIJ’s questions and said it is “in the lawyers’ hands.”

“The editor of the biggest newspaper and the biggest radio station in Spain is shamefully starring in the largest and most unprecedented attack on press freedom in our country,” El Confidencial wrote in an editorial in October. If the suit is successful, El Confidencial’s editor, Nacho Cardero told ICIJ, “this suit would mean that journalists can’t write or investigate about other editors or journalistic companies” no matter the level of public interest.

More than 400 journalists from more than 80 countries have collaborated on the Panama Papers investigation. Backlash against members of the reporting partnership has surfaced in nations where media crackdowns are common and in nations with reputations for high levels of press freedom.

  • In Tunisia, unknown hackers brought down the online news publication Inkyfada. In Mongolia, a former environment minister sued MongolTV for libel — and lost.

  • In Turkey, a newspaper partner in the investigative collaboration, Cumhuriyet, reported that a construction and energy executive with connections to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan telephoned to lash out at the paper for publishing his photo as part of its Panama Papers coverage.

    “You put my face on the front page, have you no shame?” the business mogul said, according to Cumhuriyet. “I will fight you …. You sons of bitches, don’t make a killer out of me.”

  • The Finnish tax authority threatened to raid journalists’ homes and seize documents, an unprecedented move in Finland’s liberal media environment. Authorities backed down following protests. Finnish broadcaster YLE has filed a court appeal in an effort to definitively nix the tax authority’s ongoing demand for information.

  • articles/00Impact/161201-backlash-03.jpgStaffers at La Prensa, a daily newspaper in Panama, were threatened by anonymous Twitter users. “What does it feel like to destroy your country?” asked one. Another tweet, liked and commented on by Ramon Fonseca, a co-founder of Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the heart of the scandal, featured a photo of La Prensa employees above the comment: “This is an act of high treason to the country to which they were born.”

    One online poll asked whether the best way to handle the “traitorous journalists” was to send them to jail or dump them in the Bay of Panama. For months before and after the project’s release, reporters were assigned armed bodyguards who posed as their Uber drivers.

    It wasn’t the first time La Prensa had to enact security protocols, said La Prensa’s deputy editor-in-chief, Rita Vásquez. The paper’s editorial team, which objected to the title “Panama Papers” and to the way some European governments later singled Panama out, said the fallout put the newspaper in one of the most difficult positions in its history.

  • In Ecuador, displeasure with Panama Papers went to the top. On April 12, President Rafael Correa used Twitter to name several journalists who worked on Panama Papers. Correa’s supporters followed up to harass the journalists for more information amid accusations that journalists’ decisions about which names of Ecuadorians to publish were politically motivated.

    Correa’s tweet was retweeted nearly 500 times to his 2.9 million followers, including those who replied to lambaste “barbarian” journalists. Fundamedios, a nonprofit that promotes freedom of expression, reported that President Correa’s supporters called the journalists “mercenaries,” “rats,” “corrupt press,” and “lackeys of the empire.’”

    “Government supporters then disseminated the journalists’ private information and photos, even ones where their children appear,” wrote Fundamedios.

  • Ukraine’s Independent Media Council, a non-governmental body, summoned reporters after a complaint that journalists violated ethical standards by reporting that Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, set up an offshore company at the height of warfare between government and pro-Russian forces. The media council criticized how the journalists handled the story, but said the state-run television channel was ultimately justified in broadcasting the piece.

    “It was a bit like a public whipping,” said Vlad Lavrov, an investigative reporter with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which worked on the Poroshenko story. “But we said we stand by the story and that they are judging the story not on correctness of the facts, but on our editorial choices of how the story was told.”

  • In Venezuela, reporter Ahiana Figueroa was sacked from one of the country’s biggest newspapers, Últimas Noticias. Figueroa was part of a multi-newspaper collaboration among different Venezuelan journalists. According to the nonprofit Press and Society Institute in Venezuela, at least seven Venezuelan news platforms attacked journalists who worked on Panama Papers.

  • Keung Kwok-yuen, a senior editor at the popular Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao, was unexpectedly sacked the same day in April the newspaper published a front-page story that exposed offshore activity of a former commerce secretary, a current member of the legislature, one of the world’s richest men and Hollywood martial-arts star Jackie Chan.

    Reporters Without Borders and others condemned the move. “The handling of Mr Keung’s dismissal is full of anomalies making it difficult for anyone to accept it as a pure cost-cutting move,” the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong said in a joint statement signed by associations and unions of journalists. Hundreds of journalists and citizens rallied outside Ming Pao’s office on May 2, waiving sticks of ginger (“Keung” means “ginger” in Cantonese) and demanding Keung’s reinstatement.

  • Journalists who simply relayed reports of Panama Papers were also targeted. In China, media censors instructed websites to “self-inspect and delete all content related to the ‘Panama Papers,’” according to China Digital Times. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the communications minister warned journalists to be “very careful” about naming names from the Panama Papers, including, it was presumed, the sister of President Joseph Kabila.

“Investigative journalists are used to working under intense pressure, but in countries where press freedom isn’t the norm, these pressures can become debilitating and even dangerous roadblocks for reporters,” ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle said.

articles/00Impact/161201-backlash-04.jpg“One of the benefits of collaboration is the way journalists can band together to overcome these issues — whether it’s through sharing expertise, resources, or just helping a partner to get their story published. ICIJ has been lucky to work with such a courageous group of reporters who have made it possible to tell some important stories that might have otherwise been quashed.”

A few days after publishing his Panama Papers scoop in Niger’s L’Évènement, Moussa Aksar traveled north to a town in the Sahara Desert where he often spends time in the summer. It was a relief, Aksar said, after the media attacks and the “intense” social media posts that proliferated after his story.

Now, back at home in Niger’s capital, Niamey, Moussa says the benefits of working as part of the Panama Papers team are clear, even though authorities in his country have not announced any investigation or inquiry as a result of his newspapers’ findings.

“Publishing Panama Papers with hundreds of other journalists allowed me to be part of the big league,” he said. “The protection of the partnership with ICIJ provided me with access to important sources of information and strengthened the public’s trust in my work.”

Aksar says he has no plans to stop reporting on the Panama Papers and other subjects that make his government squirm.

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