Knight International Journalism Fellowships

Panama: Develop a New System to Map and Investigate Crime and Corruption


Citizens can use the map to report a wide range of crimes, giving details about the time and location of each incident.

Jorge Luis Sierra developed a successful digital mapping platform called Mi Panama Transparente that uses crowd sourcing to pinpoint instances of crime and corruption in Panama. Now, Sierra has launched the digital map in Mexico and worked closely with a Knight Fellow in Colombia to do the same.

As in Panama, Sierra has put together a strong coalition of partners in Mexico. They include El Universal, the country’s largest newspaper; independent political news site Animal Politico; the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM); and Periodistas de a Pie, a national network of journalists. Starting in Mexico City, they are populating a nationwide online map fed by citizen reports on crime and corruption sent via text and e-mail.

Sierra is training journalists at partner organizations to develop investigative and trend pieces off the data. The digital map he developed in Panama is serving as a successful model. There, Sierra trained more than 100 journalists across the country to report for the project and to spot trends. The Forum of Journalists, an association of media and civil society groups dedicated to freedom of information, hosts the Panama site and named a director to manage it. Participating media partners pay for the director and for a journalist to verify the citizen reports.

News organizations in Panama so far have produced at least six investigative reports from tips sent by 500 citizens. Sierra is dramatically improving the site by making it more secure and adding new graphics.

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