Carlos Dada, a trailblazer in watchdog journalism in Latin America, will serve as the jury chair of the Investigative Journalism for Europe (IJ4EU) fund’s flagship grant scheme.

Dada, the winner of numerous awards for his work exposing corruption in one of the world’s most dangerous regions for journalists, co-founded and directs El Faro, a pioneering Central American online investigative news outlet.

He is the fourth jury chair to oversee the selection of investigative projects under IJ4EU’s Investigation Support Scheme, which offers grants of up to €50,000 to journalistic teams collaborating across borders in Europe.

Managed by the International Press Institute (IPI), the Investigation Support Scheme will disburse €1.5 million in grants during the 2024/25 funding round, with three open calls for proposals.

“In times of hardship for journalism all over the world, it is all the more important to fund investigative projects and contribute to keeping high editorial standards,” Dada said. “I am grateful to IPI for allowing me to add my grain of sand.”

Dada takes over the role from Nataliya Gumenyuk, a Ukrainian reporter known for championing public interest journalism. Previous jury chairs were Lydia Cacho, an award-winning Mexican investigative journalist, and Wolfgang Krach, editor-in-chief of Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung.

“Carlos Dada is the latest in a line of distinguished journalists to head our IJ4EU jury who have pushed the boundaries of investigative reporting,” said Timothy Large, director of independent media programmes at IPI, which leads the consortium of organisations that runs the IJ4EU fund.

“His courage and resilience in the face of danger are remarkable. His professionalism and commitment to his craft are humbling. His devotion to the truth is inspiring. We’re honoured to have him lead the selection of investigations for IJ4EU funding.”

Renowned journalist

Dada and his team at El Faro, one of the region’s early digital-focused news outlets, are known for their rigorous, high-quality watchdog journalism.

Despite threats from the Salvadoran state and criminal organisations, they persist in uncovering important stories in Dada’s native El Salvador and neighbouring countries.

Dada and entrepreneur Jorge Simán founded El Faro in 1998 in the aftermath of El Salvador’s long civil war. Their mission was to establish a news outlet independent of any political influence and to defend press freedom in the country.

Over the decades, El Faro has become a paragon of investigative journalism in Central America with its fearless coverage of violence, corruption, inequality and human rights violations.

The news outlet’s investigations have uncovered several cases of high-level corruption in El Salvador, including cases involving former presidents Mauricio Funes and Antonio Saca.

El Faro is known for its unique style of investigative reporting, which sees teams of journalists uncovering specific cases sometimes for several years at a time, establishing large and in-depth networks for information.

In addition to leading El Faro, Dada himself is a renowned journalist. He has reported from various conflict zones around the world and spent years researching war crimes, drug trafficking, migration and environmental issues in Central America.

Alongside his team, Dada has been the target of threats and attacks by various governments of El Salvador as well as criminal organisations linked to drug trafficking.

Most recently, in 2022, Canada’s Citizen Lab revealed that the phones of Dada and 21 of his colleagues were hacked and surveilled using the infamous Pegasus spyware during a time when El Faro was investigating links between the Salvadoran government and criminal organisations.

Dada has faced immense pressure and countless threats for his work over the years. Notably, the current president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, has ramped up intimidation of Dada and El Faro in recent times.

Despite surveillance, smear campaigns, and persecution by an increasingly authoritarian government, Dada has vowed to continue El Faro’s rigorous journalism to hold those in power accountable.

In 2022, Dada won the IPI-IMS World Press Freedom Hero award, which honours journalists who have made significant contributions to promote press freedom, particularly in the face of great personal risk.

He has also received the Maria Moors Cabot Award and the ICFJ Trailblazer Award, among others. He is the author of Los Pliegues de la Cintura. Crónicas Centroamericanas.  

Independence sacred

At the heart of the IJ4EU funding model lies a core principle: editorial independence. This means that donors to the fund can’t influence project selection.

The consortium partners – IPI, the European Journalism Centre, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and Arena for Journalism in Europe – are unwavering in safeguarding the editorial independence of all grantees.

Jury members are seasoned editors and distinguished investigative journalists from both Europe and beyond. Their diverse backgrounds promise a broad range of expertise and viewpoints in selecting projects.

Aside from the jury chair, IJ4EU keeps the identities of jury members confidential until all projects have been chosen for funding.

Curious about our previous jury members? Check them out here.

Applications are open until March 31, 2024, for IJ4EU’s Investigation Support Scheme and Freelancer Support Scheme.