2022 Shortlist

Nepotism in Palestine: Officials’ Relatives are Guaranteed a Job Upon Graduation

Country/area: Jordan

Organisation: Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ)

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 9/7/2021

Credit: Mariam Abdullah, Mahmoud Mohammed (Pseudonyms)

Biography: Mariam Abdullah: investigative journalist
Mahmoud Mohammed: investigative journalist
(We prefer to give a more detailed bio)

Project description:

This investigation documents the appointmnet and promotion of the relatives of officials in the Palestinian Authority in public offices or diplomatic corps without any transparency in these appointmnets.
This is a clear violation of the Palestinian Basic Law, the Palestinian Civil Service Law, and the Diplomatic Corps Law, and it erases the principle of equal opportunities when getting a job.

Impact reached:

This investigation provoked reactions and caused repercussions in the Palestinian and Arab public opinion, especially since it was published in the same day when the activist Nizar Banat was killed by the Palestinian Security forces for his rejection of the policies and corruption of the regime.
The investigation was circulated by many institutions, organizations, and local and international networks, and it was republished by many websites, electronic pages, and dozens of websites in Palestine and the Arab world. It also caused an uproar on social media and campaigns were made for it. The investigation also received a certificate of appreciation from ARIJ Annual Awards for Arab Investigative Journalism in 2021 in the Best Arabic Investigative Report – Data Journalism category.

Techniques/technologies used:

In this data-driven report, we analyzed the official and unofficial databases of employment in the Palestinian government and diplomatic corps over 10 years, and built 5 databases on Microsoft Excel to organize, clean, and analyze quantitative data.
We compared the percentage of government job advertisements to the number of job applicants, as well as extracting the number of relatives of government officials in those jobs. We also used the “Tableau” program to extract tables from the official gazette files in Palestine, as it is one of the important open data sources we relied on. We also used the “Import.io” program during the process of collecting data from the local news archives in Palestine.
As for the visual representation of the data, we relied on the Tableau, Flourish, and Infogram programs. This data visualization played an important role in communicating the message of the investigation.

What was the hardest part of this project?

We faced a set of difficulties and challenges during the investigation, including: ensuring the validity of the data circulated, preparing lists of data on cases related to appointments and promotions, persuading sources to speak because of the seriousness of the issue, communicating with credible sources and experts, and ensuring the “right to comment” from senior authorities in the Palestinian Authority.

We faced indirect threats from some cases during the step of the “right to comment”, including Hala Fariz, the Palestinian ambassador to Sweden, who hinted that she would go to the judiciary in the event of writing contrary information that denies her account. We were forced to publish the investigation under “pseudonyms” because it documents and exposes the corruption of senior officials in the Palestinian Authority and in the judiciary and intelligence agencies who keep promotions and appointments for their relatives and families in clear violation of the law.

The publication of the investigation coincided with the killing of the Palestinian activist Nizar Banat, and sparked widespread controversy. Which made us more insistent on the issue of the pseudonyms, fearing for our safety, especially because one of our colleagues lives in the same city in which Nizar was assassinated and the series of arrests that joined the ranks of journalists in that during that period.

Lastly, the report had to be edited several times, whether in terms of data or information, and we had to present it to more than one lawyer to ensure its credibility, which required more time and effort in completing it to avoid legal accountability

What can others learn from this project?

That this investigation can be applied in all regions, and it can be worked on from all over the world through databases and leaks of promotions, in addition to the need to follow up and use the official newspaper of the country, which is the primary and main reason for launching this investigation.
Also, this investigation can be proven by reviewing official press releases, news archives, and job advertisements announced in the Public Personnel Council (PPC), as well as analyzing statistical and civil society databases.

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