Civitates grantee partner Divergente receives recognition for their investigations

Published: 29 September 2022

For Divergente’s small newsroom the award for Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling by Online Journalism Awards and the nomination for the Digital Media Award by Prix Europa came as an exciting recognition for their work. Civitates started supporting Divergente in 2021 with a core grant and has seen the team and their ambitions about their independent multimedia investigative and narrative newsroom grow. The organisation focuses on investigating stories that scrutinise power and portray contemporary social and public interest issues that are underrepresented or misrepresented in other media. Their work and approaches to creating communities of their audience members through engaging them in public discussions are unique to Portugal.

The work for the nominated investigative report – “For you, Portugal, I swear!” – started in 2017 and, five years later, it is still unfinished as a thorough investigation takes time and resources. A significant obstacle in finalising their four-chapter investigation is the constant denial to public information that they receive from different ministries. “For you, Portugal, I swear!” tells the story of the African troops who fought alongside Portugal during the Colonial War in Guinea-Bissau and were abandoned after the independence.

“We are especially proud of having published this story because of its time urgency: we spent the last 5 years gathering testimonies of these men, a forgotten part of the colonial history that would disappear without a trace if not told in this moment in time. Also, for these men and their families, this is probably the last shot they have to see their rights recognised: many of the men we interviewed for this story already passed away in the meantime.” – shares Divergente’s team.

“It is a story that materialises the public interest journalism mission of Divergente. It portrays social and legal injustice, abandonment and lack of accountability from the Portuguese State and other governmental power structures for more than four decades. Additionally, it’s a story that strikes a nerve in the subjects of racism, colonial reckoning, and historic reparation.”

Publishing the story is not the end for Divergente. In the context of “For you, Portugal, I swear!”, they organised public presentations to leverage a debate about their investigation in civil society.

For an independent public-interest organisation that is still finding its feet, a continuous unrestricted funding or core-support is extremely important as it gives newsrooms the flexibility to expand their investigations and cover more stories of public-interest. Core-funding supports organisations like Divergente in exploring new formats and ways of engagement with their audience members. Afterall, building reputation as an independent public-interest but also public-trusted journalistic organisation takes time and resources.

In their most recent newsletter, Divergente explain their struggles to access public information in what they called a “latent boycott of the press” that prevents them from doing their job.