Christo Grozev is the executive director of Bellingcat, a global investigative news outlet that specializes in using open-source intelligence and networks of professional and citizen journalists to expose the truth about war, human rights abuses and the criminal underworld. Grozev, who is the winner of the ICFJ Innovation in International Reporting Award along with Bellingcat, delivered the following remarks on Nov. 10 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, at the ICFJ Tribute to Journalists 2022.
I accept this honor on behalf of Bellingcat’s 30 researchers, journalists from partner media outlets and dozens of Bellingcat volunteers. However, we also share this award with hundreds of citizen journalists around the world who, over the last eight years became part of the informal Bellingcat network, and joined forces to help us crack some of the hardest of cases.
Bellingcat would have achieved little without our exceedingly engaged audience – who have been in equal parts our readers, our peer-reviewers and our fellow investigators. And if there’s any innovation that Bellingcat should be credited for, it should not be for the use of open-source intelligence, or for digging through terabytes of data - none of these were invented by or are unique to Bellingcat.
Our real innovation was in inviting our audience to be part of our investigations. Alongside us, our readers combed through hundreds of pages of travel logs of Russian security officers, in order to spot overlaps with suspicious deaths of opposition figures. Readers’ tips allowed us to identify eight political assassinations or assassination attempts. When a passenger plane was shot down near Tehran, it was social media followers from Iran who provided us with photographs that helped us track the weapon that killed hundreds. We have asked for – and received – our readers’ help to track down incidents of child abuse in Mexico, rogue airstrikes in Afghanistan, war crimes in Libya, and violence during the storming of the U.S. Capitol, to name just a few.
So this award goes to citizen journalists around the world, who, together with us, reinvented crowdsourced, open-source and data journalism. Only together with all of you, we are Bellingcat.