The Arizona Project model dates back to 1976, when Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles, who had been working on stories about land fraud and the Italian-American mafia in Arizona, was blown up in an explosion caused by TNT that had been placed under his car. In response to the murder, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) in the US put together a team of 30 reporters who gathered in Phoenix to finish Bolles’s story. It was the first large-scale collaborative investigative journalism project in history.
After the murder of Martinez Zogo, the Network of African Investigative Reporters and Editors (NAIRE https://www.zammagazine.com/investigations/1610-a-new-network-of-african-investigative-reporters) initiated a discussion with ZAM on the possibilities of carrying out an Arizona Project in Cameroon in order to assist colleagues under siege in that country and retrieve important information. ZAM agreed to use its office as a base for the coordination.
The decision to send colleagues into Cameroon was not taken lightly. It would be risky because of the danger of violence, detention, and torture for which Cameroonian security forces are known. However, NAIRE found members willing to go regardless. They were Selay Kouassi from Ivory Coast, David Dembélé from Mali, and Bram Posthumus, also based in Ivory Coast. They were to work in close contact with Cameroon-based colleagues, who had access to information but could not be exposed for their safety. These colleagues, as much as ZAM and NAIRE would like to credit them in full, cannot be named for the same reason.
Investigations editor Evelyn Groenink worked full-time in the ZAM back office to coordinate the project, serve as liaison, and edit the results.
When the team discovered that illicit financial flows from Cameroon to foreign countries were a crucial factor in the murder of Martinez Zogo, international partners in the Global Investigative Journalism Network (www.gijn.org) were also ready to help. These were:
- The Investigative Reporting Project Italy https://irpimedia.irpi.eu/, in particular reporter Edoardo Anziano, who dived into the case on the Italian side.
- Premium Times www.premiumtimesng.com reporter Kabiru Yusuf, who, in spite of the investigative publication’s heavy workload, was made available by his editors to work on the Nigerian and USA fronts of the story.
- Diario Rombe https://diariorombe.es/ (Equatorial Guinea/Spain), which investigated a money transfer agency link between Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.
- Pierre-Claver Kuvo https://www.icij.org/journalists/k-pierre-claver-kuvo , editor of De Cive in Togo and coordinator of the Togolese Consortium of Investigative Journalists “Togo Reporting Post”, who focused on the links to Togo and Benin.
ZAM and NAIRE extend their greatest thanks to these colleagues, who worked with African investigative journalists in solidarity.
The project also owes thanks to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) www.cpj.org, which provided crucial and much-needed advice.