Atlatszo Center for Investigative Journalism

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Atlatszo Center for Investigative Journalism

Hungary
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Atlatszo.hu produces investigative reports based on information from whistleblowers and publishes all of its findings online.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The aim of the founders was to launch the first Hungarian watchdog NGO, which produces investigative journalism financed by civil, nonprofit sources. Our website Atlatszo.hu produces investigative reports, accepts information from whistleblowers (this feature is called “MagyarLeaks”), files freedom of information requests, and commences freedom of information lawsuits in cases where its requests are refused. Atlatszo.hu publishes all of its relevant findings on the internet, and organises transparency campaigns with the involvement of the general public. We target a direct, regular readership of at least 100,000 individuals, representing about 1% of the Hungarian population.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The aim of atlatszo.hu is to implement an innovative non-profit model in Hungary that relies on in-depth collaboration with other news organizations, journalists, public policy organizations and universities, and fully exploit new communication technologies, to provide citizens – local and global – with critical, actionable information that impacts their lives. Atlatszo.hu was partly inspired by the achievements of the famous Wikileaks whistleblowing website; therefore we advise our sources how to leak stories and documents of public interest to us in a secure way on the internet. However, the scope of our work –contrary to Wikileaks – is the transparent expenditure of public resources. Our staff has experience in handling stories of this nature, dealing with whistleblowers and insider sources without hurting their interests. Cases will be pursued with fresh materials as they develop into official investigations and court cases.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our cases will follow the example of this one: When the Hungarian government awarded €75 million in aid and a €55 million loan from the Hungarian Development Bank to finance a race track at Lake Balaton in 2009, journalist (now editor-in-chief of Atlatszo.hu) Tamas Bodoky requested a copy of KPMG’s feasibility study under the Freedom of Information Act. The Bank rejected this, and so with the legal support of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) Bodoky filed a court application and HCLU mobilized citizens who sent thousands of letters to the Prime Minister requesting the study be made public. Finally, the study was released online, but significant information was redacted. Bodoky and HCLU went back to court. Meanwhile, a leak from the Ministry of Finance – confirmed by the Minister himself – described the investment as “risky, uneconomic and unlawful”. The courts ordered virtually the entire feasibility study to be released to the public. The deal was grossly disadvantageous to the State, and the Hungarian Development Bank finally pulled out. (At the same time Bodoky had to quit his job, because his employer started to censor his articles.)
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Atlatszo.hu will evolve into a respected online magazine with high readership numbers and a significant impact on the Hungarian public sphere. We aim to provide high quality and thoroughly researched content which can then be syndicated free of charge to the rest of the Hungarian media, including television and radio stations, and daily and weekly journals. We hope the media will see atlatszo.hu not as a competitor, but as a partner and reliable source of content.
About You
Organization:
Atlatszo Center for Investigative Journalism
About You
First Name

Tamas

Last Name

Bodoky

Twitter URL
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Atlatszo Center for Investigative Journalism

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact

, BU

How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

Innovation
Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for less than a year

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

Tamas Bodoky who started the project received a lot of feedback on his blog from readers supporting investigative journalism and expressing the need for more investigative articles on corruption in Hungary.

The special "Aha!" moment was the one when Mr Bodoky's article was published on the news site he worked for but was subsequently re-edited because of hurting the interests of the news site. At that moment Mr Bodoky realized it was not possible to write investigative articles for medias working for profit. Atlatszo.hu was inspired by such not-for-profit projects as reportingproject.net and centerforinvestigativereporting.org, both are not-for-profit journalism centres.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

Almost all of the important Hungarian mainstream newspapers, news portals, radio stations and television channels have reported our activities, and we have received some foreign coverage as well. The site had 50.000 visitors in the first 2 weeks, now we have more than 2000 fans on Facebook, and about 200 volunteers have expressed their wish to join.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

Our aim is not just to bring to the public eye cases of scandalous misuse of political and economic power and influence; we want something to happen as a result. Follow-up is at the core of our strategy. We will make public participation very easy by linking to online social networks and creating tools to help the public express their views to the authorities and to politicians, and to support anonymous whistle-blowing. The tools we will release will be available to everyone.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Give a reasonable amount of honorarium to the journalists who work with our reports.

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

More content, more investigations

Task 2

A new, more professional layout for the website

Task 3

Setting up a Hungarian FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) Request Generator

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Release our own tools for safe online leaks.

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Short video reports on investigations

Task 2

Legal clinic for average citizens to file FOIA requests

Task 3

An office and some in-house staff

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Sustainability
Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured

Non-profit

What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

The biggest barrier we have encountered is the lack of money. Since we cannot pay the journalists we work with we cannot publish as many articles and cases we would like to. We need more intense fundraising. At the beginning we manage to finance the basic needs of the organization from small donations (private, PayPal, Flattr).

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

We intend to operate a secure anonymous submission platform for whistleblowers. Other IT-related development plans include creating and maintaining a social network map of the Hungarian economic and political elite, to let people review and comment on proposed bills before they are introduced in parliament, to build crowdsourcing tools for investigative journalists to gather information from readers on a specific topic, to implement various data visualisation tools, and to scrape public databases to make them easier to search.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

The aim of Atlatszo.hu is to produce professional content based on crowdsourced leaks and investigation. If the project doesn't work in a regular, professional way we will maintain it as a blog.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

In the long term, Atlatszo.hu is intended to be financed by civil sources; we will not accept money from political parties and affiliates. Private donors have already contributed approximately 1.800.000 HUF (ca. 9000 USD) to atlatszo.hu, including the owners of Atlatszo.hu Nonprofit Ltd. and the volunteers of the project. As the first donationbased portal of this nature, it is difficult to estimate the level of future donations. Our aim is to turn to organisational donors and raise sufficient funds to pay three full-time journalists with support staff and infrastructure.

Tell us about your partnerships

Our partners are the following:
100Reporters.com
4K! – Negyedik Köztársaság (4th Republic)
Egymillióan a Magyar Sajtószabadságért (EMS/Milla - One Million for the Hungarian Press Freedom),
Kalozpart.org
Legal Leaks
Mindennapi.hu
Patyicivil.hu
Tempohirek.com
Tilos Rádió
Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project
Védegylet - Protect the Future

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

Now our core team is a group of volunteers but in the long-term we would like to hire three full-time employees, freelance IT-specialists, freelance journalists, lawyers, translators.

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Investment, Human resources or talent, Marketing or media, Research or information, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.).

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Human resources or talent, Marketing or media, Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.), Innovation or ideas, Mentorship.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list

We will make public participation very easy by linking to online social networks and creating tools to help the public express their views to the authorities and to politicians, and to support anonymous whistle-blowing.

Summary
Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

Atlatszo.hu online magazine for investigative journalism promotes transparency and freedom of information in Hungary.