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Mr Bruno Walter is an independent journalist who works on in-depth, investigative stories. He has found that most journalists focus on national problems and ignore local issues. However, it is at the local level that many social justice challenges are faced. For Mr Walter, his pursuit of such issues has resulted in death threats.
(Le besoin de journalisme indépendant entre connaissances locales et problèmes généraux. Témoignage d’un journaliste indépendant qui travaille dans l’investigation.)
12 / 2001
Mr Bruno Walter is an independent journalist who works on in-depth, investigative stories. He said that being an independent journalist allows him to work in the areas of his choosing, on the stories he believes are important and without any political influence.
He only began working as a journalist some 18 months ago, saying that there are many financial pressures facing many in his position. Bruno said that almost half of the journalists working in France are now independent. Due to the financial pressures, many resort to finding additional sources of income such as working in supermarkets.
The ability to choose the areas to investigate is only one difference between independent journalists and those tied to single newspapers. Another difference is the ability to spend more time on a single story and write in more detail. But again, there is a limitation which is to ensure that there is enough funding. The final key difference for Bruno is that there is 100 percent independence, with no political pressures or bias.
Bruno used to work on a daily newspaper. Even with the ability to access additional resources and excellent sources, he was too severely limited by time to properly investigate stories. The major problem for journalists working on daily papers is not politics or editorial influence, but time. As an independent journalist, you can investigate for as long as you feel necessary.
Journalism is just another marketable commodity according to Bruno. It is relatively easy to work for a tabloid were many of the readers are mainly interested on the page three girls. Such an environment is frustrating for journalists, and it is this reason that motivated Bruno to become an independent journalist.
One of the unfortunate aspects of the national press is that their focus is very much on Paris. Most journalists are interested only on national issues and ignore the local. It is important that journalists are just as focussed on both political and social issues on a local level, as well as on a national and international level.
This aspect of micro-investigative journalism can also be dangerous. Although not like reporting in a war zone like Afghanistan, it does carry risks. Bruno has received death threats while undertaking his research. One was received while investigating the Mayor of Haumont - an extremely right wing fascist politician. By investigating and reporting on the Mayor’s abhorrent articles, Bruno unwillingly made the Mayor a national celebrity.
The Mayor’s policies are anti-immigration, anti-poor and anti-civil liberties. He even drove for a referendum against immigration. The populist policies and the publicity generated by the articles written by Bruno, resulted in the Mayor being re-elected with a 70 percent approval rating.
The popularity of the Mayor has been driven by a number of factors. The Mayor’s constituency includes areas of high unemployment, social problems and high immigration. The Mayor has drawn links between these issues, no matter how tenuous. This has resulted in his constituents supporting such fascists policies. The Mayor is also a successful entrepreneur. He has taken a stance that government needs to be run like a corporation.
This drove Bruno to investigate the operations of the Mayor in more detail. He investigated the Mayor’s life and business dealings discovering that the Mayor had been involved in seven failed companies. Bruno published all these documents.
The lesson is that when Bruno stated that the Mayor was a fascist, people voted for him. But when he proved that he was a failed businessman, people turned against him. This was catastrophic for the Mayor’s image. While he remains the Mayor, his aspirations for higher office at a national level are now ruined.
The Mayor has been very vengeful against Bruno - hence the death threat. The Mayor has also written eight articles on Bruno. But Bruno believes that he has achieved an important breakthrough, saying that although it is not Watergate, it is important that he has prevented the Mayor climbing the political ladder.
For Bruno, this is the role of journalist - to highlight injustice, promote accountability, guarantee freedoms and stop the powerful from abusing their power. But the role of the press is ultimately limited - politicians and society must want justice, or any positive work undertaken by journalists is wasted, no matter their ability to influence public opinion.
This file was made in an interview at the World Assembly, Lille, France. Interview with Bruno Walter Independent Journalist, 14 rue d’Hautmont, 59600 Maubeuge, France - firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview with Bruno WALTER