2022 Winner

Lanes of Death in East Cairo

Country/area: Jordan

Organisation: Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ)

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 30/9/2021

Credit: Mustafa Mansour Mohamed

Jury’s Comments:

Data journalism can contribute to saving lives, and this is what Mustafa Mansour Mohamed and his team at the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) set out to do with their “Lanes of Death in East Cairo” data investigation. They put themselves in harms ways to confront officials in a country where journalists often see the inside of a jail cell for daring to speak to authority and they collected field data about the rising death toll among pedestrians on the roads of East Cairo while trying to avoid the Egyptian security services that might have categorized their activities as subversive. The risk paid off – the President of the country addressed the issues highlighted in the investigation and the road infrastructure was improved through the building of pedestrian bridges in dangerous traffic areas and through smart safety systems that were also put in place. The ARIJ investigation combined satellite data, direct data collection and very thorough data analysis to make a big difference for the citizens of Cairo.


An Egyptian investigative journalist, with over 10 years of experience in writing in-depth, data driven, and cross-border stories, as well as stories for television. He recently completed a diploma in data journalism.
He worked as an investigative editor in daily and weekly Egyptian digital and interactive newspapers. He received the Arab Journalism Award, and the Egyptian Journalism Award 2018 from the Syndicate of Journalists in Egypt.
He worked as a former head of the investigations department in its daily and weekly editions, and was responsible for investigative projects and documentaries in Arab and Egyptian news sites.

Project description:

The investigation documents the increase in deaths and injuries of pedestrians on the restored roads (developed and expanded) in East Cairo, due to the failure of the Ministry of Local Development to establish safety means on those roads, such as speed bumps, pedestrian crossings lanes, traffic lights or providing pedestrian bridges, which increased number of victims on the asphalt, with those reposnible for the lives of people in Egypt being complicit in their deaths.
This is in addition to an environmental defect that resulted from the destruction of trees and historical plantings to expand those roads.

Impact reached:

After publishing the investigation, Egypt’s president called for emphasizing the safety of roads and facilitating pedestrian crossings lanes, and also called on government officials to expedite the launch of the smart security system that would prevent accidents, monitor roads, and ensure rapid intervention. Some pedestrian bridges were built, and the president also instructed to hold community meetings with the residents to explain what happened.
Here, I would like to point out that in Egypt there is no significant influence of the press, and there is usually a negative and misfortunate influence on the journalist or the newspaper that publishes the investigation.

Techniques/technologies used:

1. Excel sheets: to build two big databases. The first is for the victims of road accident victims and included details of the time and place of accidents, their ages and jobs, and the type of accidents. Using functions, I got results of the places that witnessed most accidents, their time, type, vehicle type, and the type of injury or death.

2. The second Excel sheet used Google Earth to document satellite images, modifications, and lack of safety measures on the roads before its expansion and after development, to be used as evidence to prove the hypothesis.

3. Juxtapose JS: to display satellite images interchangeably to show the stages before and after development in one interactive image to highlight the size of the trees that were removed and the loss of the green color, and to clarify the absence of any safety measures on the roads for pedestrians.

4. Tableau: to convert some spreadsheets in PDF format to a database in Excel sheets, and I used it on a small scale, especially since there are no databases except for the old ones.

5. Florish: tool to turn the data into interactive graphics that highlight the rise in road and pedestrian accidents over the past and current years, as well as in other thermal graphics to see the timing of accidents in order to protect people from them. It is the areas where most accidents occurred.

6. Google Maps: to plot the roads with the most accidents, and I made a commuter car to document the lengths, widths and lack of safety for pedestrians (which I did on the ground on a real field tour).

What was the hardest part of this project?

– The hardest part of the investigation is the lack of official databases or statistics available from beginning to end, so I had to manually create databases and include them in Excel sheets and collect them myself from Facebook groups for the victims’ areas where they were writing and photographing each incident with video, photos, and data, So I compiled a case by case file of pedestrian accidents after making sure they were documented.
– I tried to update the database from local news sites, where I found a way to find the news of the victims using the keywords “in transit” in the news pieces of pedestrian accidents, which enabled me to update the databases.
– I also conducted a questionnaire to target the population in those areas and find out the extent of the damage and its spread, although this was a danger to me because I could have been tracked by the security forces, especially since some will consider this as a move to spread false news.
– I also had to do field work to confirm what I wrote about about 15 roads, and indeed I almost hit some pedestrians had it not been for the fact that we were driving slowly, and I also documented before and after pictures of the roads via satellite.
– Confrontation with the officials was inevitable but extremely dangerous. Every journalist who tries to criticize or question the achievements of the government and the state is prosecuted, and it is considered unpatriotic, and the officials try to evade answering. But in the end, I confronted them.
– Finally, I published the story under a pseudonym out of fear for my personal safety and out of fear of being stalked.

What can others learn from this project?

– Don’t give up if there are no databases, you can build and analyze databases by yourself.
– Do not despair no matter how difficult the story is, but you have to document and prove it with more than one evidence and more than one method.
– You have to listen to the people and those affected, we write these stories for them.
– Your personal safety is more important than anything else, and you can write a story to get everyone’s attention.
– You have to come up with your final story in an easy, convenient, interactive way that is backed up by all numbers

Project links: