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While grand residential projects help regenerate the outer centre of the Spanish capital’s district of Delicias, Romanian beggars build shanty-huts in the dirt

Madrid favelas: Each nationality of homeless has its own separate community (Picture: Michael Bird)

 

Delicias. In English this means ‘Delights’. A district in outer central Madrid. A warm Wednesday. Huge new apartment complexes of brick and concrete tower either side of a railway. Connecting the two estates is a wide footbridge, with a smooth incline to allow the passage of bicycles. Below the shining new buildings are fenced-off tennis courts, where buff players sport fancy designer wear, and serve aces across the clay.

But alongside the railway is a plot strewn with rubble, overgrown bushes and two massive rusting water towers, separated from the new blocks by a white wall. Under the footbridge are shacks of wooden boards nailed together and covered with tarpaulin. A mini favela takes shelter in the shadow of this huge development. On a sofa outside a shanty-hut sits a man in his late fifties, listening to the radio and drinking beer from a glass teacup. Next to him is a stroller filled with aluminium foil.

This is Costică, from Băilești, a small town in Romania’s arable heartland close to the Danube. He won’t talk to journalists. So we pretend we’re researchers for a university. He will not let us take his picture.

Before the 1989 revolution, Costică worked as a store manager and his family lived well, because he had access to food and goods. “Back then I used to work with a pen in my hand,” he says.

When communism fell, the local economy collapsed. Farming in his town turned from a collective employing every resident into a mechanised industry that ran on profit. “They don’t need people anymore,” he says.

In the 1990s, the post-Communist Government gave back land seized by the state to millions of families, hoping to create a new peasant class of smallholders. But each citizen received barely more than an acre. Costică was not impressed by this amount.

He takes a stick, leans out from the sofa and maps out a small square in the dust.

“How can you make farming on that?” he says.

So three years ago, Costică moved with his wife, his son and his sister-in-law to Spain. “As I didn’t have a job anymore, I had to come here,” he says. “God brought us here.”

He has a house and relatives in Băilești, including three grandsons. But he can’t bring them here. This is because the local social services would take the kids away, as Costică isn’t allowed to grow up children between four pieces of wood nailed together underneath a bridge.

As to why he choose this to come to this country and city, he says:

“We heard about Spain from the TV - and now we’re in the capital!”

A rat scuttles across a barbed wire fence. There is no one else here except Costică’s sister-in-law. They speak Romani together. Most of the shanty-huts are unoccupied, because the Romanians from Băilești have gone to Seville to pick grapes. But Costică is too old for fruit-picking.

Instead he says he makes a living from selling scrap wire and aluminium, as well as begging. “I sit in the street and I stretch out my hand,” he says.

He earns up to seven Euro per day, but his family - of three people - can earn 300 Euro a week.

The cops only come to check their papers. “We don’t steal - that’s the last thing we would need. The police leave us alone because we don’t commit crimes," he sighs.  "God protected us so far.”

But he says other residents in the squat were not so peaceful. “When they drink, all Madrid can hear them,” he says. Costică claims they were Turkish, although he doesn’t seem 100 per cent sure. A woman in the new blocks called the local mayor to complain when they played their music loud or set bonfires alight.

“We have learned to have smaller fires and not to play our music so loud,” says Costică. Now the local residents are used to him - he says.

There are eight Romanian families on the other side of the camp, from Craiova - a large town near Băilești. They live one hundred metres away. But Costică won’t make the short two-minute journey to speak to them.

“Because they are from another race,” he says.

 

Forced beggary “only from Romania”

We were here in Spain last September to examine forced labour run by criminal gangs. In 2013, the Spanish police say the only proven cases of work exploitation for begging came from Romania. From those taken to trial, eight victims were minors between the ages of 13 and 15. In 2014, the sale price a family would cash in selling their child to a begging gang in Spain was between 1,000 and 1,500 Euro.

Vans in Madrid drop off beggars at crowded areas within the city centre at seven A.M and pick them up in the evening. These include old and disabled people - many of whom could not come to Spain on their own. The Catholic Charity Esperanza details one case of a woman and teenage child forced into begging.

“They had to work for 12 hours in the same place every day, and to obtain 50 Euro every day. If they failed - they were not given food, or were beaten up,” says Marta González, general coordinator at Esperanza.

 

Fruit loot: In the middle or ironing a blanket, Romanians left for Seville to pick grapes for cash (picture: Michael Bird) 

 

But among the Romanian beggars of Delicias, the atmosphere is calm, and there are no kids or gang bosses, claim the residents. On the other side of the footbridge, two men are sitting outside a shanty-hut. One is large, almost bald, with blonde-hair, blue eyes and thick black tattoos, the other is smaller, pockmarked, his eyes damp and red. He is smoking red Pall Malls and holding out his thumb, which is bloody, and wrapped in a bandage.

When we arrive, a girl in her twenties hides behind a curtain to a hut, guarded by a  plastic white pony.

These men are Florin and Florin. Both are from Craiova. They don’t want to talk to journalists. But they let us pull up a chair and speak to them - because we 'are Romanian'.

The big Florin says he cannot work in Romania - and he shows us a scar that has cut into his ankle.

They arrived here three years ago. How do they make their money?

“Here we find a piece of metal or we beg,” says Florin.

They says they can earn 400 to 500 Euro in a month from their activities. But even if they manage six to ten Euro every day, “it’s pretty good”.

Sometimes they send home 100 Euro a month.

Both Florins say they don’t steal. “The cops would kill us if they caught us,” says big Florin.

There is no running water, nor is there electricity, but the larger Florin days he does not need it. “We arrive at ten at night and we go directly to bed,” he says.

On this wide abandoned railway siding squat people from around the world. There are Spanish, Romanians, and Turks (although no one here is quite sure they are Turks). But each group keep to their own separate shanty community, and the Romanians here don’t even know how to speak Spanish. Big Florin say they have no problems with the neighbours.

“We are on our field, they are on theirs,” he says.

In the shade of a tree is a black man in his twenties, sitting down, nodding and mumbling to himself. His shirt is open, and there is broad and heavy jewellery in faux-gold around his neck.

“Alaska: 10 degrees,” he says, “Canada: 12 degrees, West Coast America, 20 degrees, East Coast America…”

In Spanish, he is reciting the weather forecast to himself. Florin says he does this a lot. Every day, the guy makes money from begging in the street.

We ask where he is from.

Florin looks over with a mix of disdain and a faint note of sympathy.  

“Somewhere in Africa…” he says.

 

 

This short blog is part of the Eurocrimes project - fieldwork took place in September 2016

 

 

 

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We wanted to expose how Romanians are the main nationality of male prostitutes in Rome… and we did not do it

An elegant setting

 

A taxi driver told us where to find boys. His name was Mario. He wasn’t an average taxi driver. He ran an NGO helping women convicts land jobs after they left jail. Also he was an anarchist. And a former soldier who was incarcerated in a military prison after pouring a pan of spaghetti over his senior officer.

Now in his fifties, Mario knew the streets of Rome. He had socialised with murderers and generals. The high and low life of the eternal city. So he was the perfect man to show us exactly where we could see men soliciting boys for sex.

“It’s the opposite of women,” said Mario. “The client hangs out and waits for the boys to arrive.”

We knew from talking to charities, experts in prostitution and east European ex-pats that young Romanian men were the number one nationality of male vice in Rome.

This was not a sleazy part of the Italian capital. If such sleaze even exists. Here were the austere steps of Piazzale Simon Bolivar. At its summit was a brass equestrian statue of the Venezuelan freedom fighter. Nearby were the grand chambers of the Museum of Modern Art.

At the corner of a stone wall, halfway up the steps, and sheltered by an overhanging tree, stood a short 35 year-old man in sunglasses and an upturned collar. Next to him was a bike.

As we moved close to him, he crouched down with a bicycle pump in his hand, ready to inflate his tyres.

We walked into a small grove of cedars and stone pines. Here was a brass bust of Chilean independence leader Bernardo O’Higgins, taking a less prominent position than his Venezuelan counterpart. In the bushes was a blue one-man tent. It was occupied.

Opposite Bernardo O’Higgins was a broken blue chair. Scattered on the ground were empty packets of Durex condoms, Camel cigarette butts and Lube, trampled into the mud, branches and pine needles.

I took a photo with my phone.

It was a bad photo.

It even had my feet in it.

 

A bad photo

 

This is where Italian men have sex with Romanian boys - thought to be over the age of 16. The men wait near to the entrance of the grove. Usually older men, as younger men don't need to pay for sex. They stand like lost tourists waiting for a guide, the boys come up to them, they negotiate an amount, and go into the bushes.

But right now there was only one man with a bike. We walked past him on our way out of the grove, and he was still crouching down, with the pump in his hand.

I don’t think he was inflating his tyres.

He looked at us, through his sunglasses.

He seemed to be worried (although we could not be sure - because he had on sunglasses).

Perhaps he was thinking ‘you know that I am not really inflating these tyres. But I am going to keep on pretending that I am, so that you won’t think I am waiting for some Romanian boys.’

But there were no boys.

We needed a new strategy. We went to the outdoor Caffè della Arti, part of the National Museum of Modern Art, and ordered some coffee and water. It was a hot day. Refreshment was essential. But these drinks were expensive.

Then we took turns to walk around the area, seeing if we could find old Italian men or Romanian boys.

I carried a bulky camera and stood behind stone walls trying to take pictures in secret with a long lens. But my lens was not long enough. And there was nothing for me to photograph.

Then I spied a 60 year-old thin man in cap and shades and shorts, slightly sunburnt and looking around at the edge of wall with a small bum bag around his shoulder.

I went back to the cafe, and then my colleague took over the watch.

After ten minutes we realised that it looked as though the only people wandering around looking to procure young Romanian boys were us.

Half an hour later, we saw someone we suspected could be a prostitute. A young man, between 18 and 25, with slightly dark skin, short hair at the sides and a small beard.

We took a picture with a phone.

It was terrible.

 

Another bad photo

 

He started talking to the old guy.

The conversation seemed to be neutral, but cordial.

Then the younger man walked into the bushes with his telephone, came back, and showed the older guy something on his screen.

What did this picture show?

We were too far away to see.

Then the 'client' left. And the young man in shorts walked in and out of the bushes, seemingly on the hunt for someone else. Did we talk to him? We were staking him out. So we didn’t talk to him. Which was stupid. Did we talk to the old man? No. But we didn’t speak Italian.

We stayed in the cafe for a long time. The waitress kept asking if we wanted anything else. And we did that thing where you order the cheapest item on the menu. Which was a small water. 

Then she bought us the bill - which we hadn't ask for.

I think she hated us.

Did we hang around to see if more Romanian boys were arriving. Yes, but we were walking around with big cameras - or trying to take pictures craftily with our phones. Either the people looking for boys saw us, and became scared, or they were not there.

It wasn’t happening.

So we walked back to the grove, which was empty. Someone was coming out of the blue tent.

Who could it be?

It was a tramp with a muddy face and torn clothes.

We looked to the other side of the street. Opposite where Italians have sex with men in bushes.

The building that was standing there.

 

An irony

 

The Italian branch of the Romanian Academy. Inspired by the Académie Française, this is an institution that aims to “gather the preeminent personalities of Romania’s intellectual life”  to build progress in science and art through reflection and action.

I took a picture of the gated classical mansion with its mission statement sculpted in Latin.

And we remained without a story, standing next to a broken chair, on a carpet of cigarette ends, used condoms and muddy jars of empty lube.

 
 
 
You can read a more thorough exploration of Romanian prostitutes in Naples here - and thanks to Cecilia Ferrara, who helped us, but was professional throughout
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Turkish investigative journalist Ahmet Sik has been in prison for nearly four months, accused on terrorism charges for tweeting criticisms of the Erdogan-led Government. 

Today he was acquitted of a previous charge - but he took the chance in the courtroom to attack Turkey''s controversial justice system

The video in Turkish is here

Turkish investigative journalist Ahmet Sik attended the last hearing of the OdaTV trial today. 

He has been in jail for four months in another case. This trial should take place in the next ten days. 

Today in Caglayan Courthouse, after a couple of hours of deliberations, the judge asked for the last words of 13 defendants.

Ahmet Sik said:

“If I said what I am really thinking, it would be the subject of another court case. I am referring to the judiciary who wrote my new indictment. This courthouse has become a symbol of the graveyard of justice. The gravediggers are the judges and prosecutors themselves. At the entrance of this courthouse, you can see the statues of Lady Justice. She is holding scales. Supposedly, these scales are the symbol for justice. 

“But it is a fact that the scales don’t weigh anything for those looking for justice in this graveyard. 

“Actually, these are scales for judges and prosecutors; on one side, there is honour and integrity, and on the other side there is lack of honour and improbity. For these judges and prosecutors, the latter always weighs more.”

After Ahmet’s words, the judge asked for a recess. 

On his return, the judge ruled to acquit all 13 defendants in the OdaTV case. 

The case has first started in 2011 when Ahmet and his colleagues were detained for a year, accused of being members of a clandestine terrorist organisation, which was later found out to be fictional.

As Ahmet was leaving the courtroom to be taken back to jail, his supporters were shouting: “Ahmet will be free, he will write again.” Ahmet stopped the military police dragging him outside and turned to the spectators and said:

“This decision should be a lesson for the judges and prosecutors who wrote the [new] indictment against [us]. We will achieve a life where our children’s smiles will be real. This mafia government, this organised evil, will get the ending it deserves. They will face the inevitable.” 

Previously, Ahmet has used his time in the courthouse to launch attacks on the Turkish regime. In February he stated:

"We [the journalists] were tried in courts because we refused to bow down to a government which has normalised totalitarianism. We chased the truth. The biggest legacy we inherited is the idea that saying what the powerful wants told is not journalism. The people who taught us this were or are still being punished with jail or exile. When this was not enough, they were silenced with bombs or bullets. The fight waged by the powerful against journalists in order to censor the truth has been going on since the dawn of journalism in this land.

"But this fight is futile. Because, whoever you are, you cannot fight an idea that has truth at its base. If you think you’re fighting it, you should know that you cannot win. You will lose again and again.”

Turkey currently imprisons almost half of all detained journalists worldwide. At least 134 journalist are currently in jail in Turkey, all of them under anti-state charges. 

 

 

 

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Turkish investigative journalist Ahmet Sik has been in prison for two months, accused on terrorism charges for tweeting criticisms of the Erdogan-led Government. Today he made a rare venture back into the public eye - speaking as a defendant in a different trial

This is what he said

 
Investigative Journalist Ahmet Sik hugs his daughter at his trial today. He remains in custody (Credit: Sinan Karahan - Twitter)
 
 
Ahmet Sik 15 February 2017, Istanbul. OdaTv trial

Turkish investigative journalist Ahmet Sik was brought in front of a judge today to defend himself in the OdaTv trial. This is part of an investigation which started in 2011 when he was first detained for a year, accused with membership of a clandestine terrorist organisation, which was later found out to be fictional.

He is currently in jail waiting for the indictment in another case.

On 14 December 2016, the prosecutor wanted Ahmet Sik and other 13 defendants to be acquitted on the grounds of lack of evidence.

Sik refused and asked for extra time to defend himself in front of the court for the last time. The judge had postponed the hearing to 15 February 2017.

 

This is what Sik said in court today:

“Turkey is a strange country and has experienced many absurdities before now. But there has never been an era where universal democratic norms are thrown out and re-defined to serve the benefit of an organised evil which currently encompasses the country.

"George Orwell’s '1984' is frequently used to describe today’s Turkey, but Orwell would turn in his grave today. If you find this an exaggeration, I will give you a couple of examples.

"I’ll start with the most recent events. The [President Recep Tayyip Erdogan-backed leadership] are trying to sell us a one-man dictatorship as though it is democracy.

"The referendum [on 16 April to grant Erdogan more powers over the legislative branch of power] will be held under unequal circumstances, where everyone is sure there will be fraud, and where a person is branded a terrorist if he says he will vote 'no'.

"And the [leadership] present this referendum to us as the 'will of the nation'. They did not hesitate to turn the country into a bloodbath when the July 2015 general election result threatened their power and the oligarchic system they represent. At the end of the [Kurdish] peace process, the whole country turned into a graveyard.

"They want us to believe this is an advanced democracy and that press freedom is in its best ever era, and they say they have freed us from chains. But national and international organisations tell us: 'Turkey is the biggest prison for journalists in the world'.

"In the last ten years, pro-government loyalists liberally used the terms 'coup' and 'plotter' very liberally. Every anti-government movement was a 'coup' and every dissident was a 'plotter'. In fact, the actual military regimes and coups were welcomed by political Islamists in Turkey.

"The Justice and Development Party (the Erdogan-backed AKP Party) is itself the biggest example of this paradox of the illusion of democracy. They represent the mentality of darkness, but their logo is a light-bulb. They turn the country into a republic paved with cement, while destroying the environment and natural resources, and they call it development. And this trial itself shows their understanding of justice.

"Two of my lawyers are not here today. And not just them. My colleagues Murat Sabuncu, Kadri Gursel, Guray Oz, Turhan Gunay, Hakan Kara, Musa Kart and Onder Celik aren’t here either. They are in jail.

"When evil prevails, we need truth more than ever. Because when facts are written down, evil ceases to be the last word. Not speaking, not remembering and not allowing ourselves to remember is denying ourselves the truth.

"We [the journalists] were tried in courts because we refused to bow down to a government which has normalised totalitarianism. We chased the truth. The biggest legacy we inherited is the idea that saying what the powerful wants told is not journalism. The people who taught us this were or are still being punished with jail or exile. When this was not enough, they were silenced with bombs or bullets. The fight waged by the powerful against journalists in order to censor the truth has been going on since the dawn of journalism in this land.

"But this fight is futile. Because, whoever you are, you cannot fight an idea that has truth at its base. If you think you’re fighting it, you should know that you cannot win. You will lose again and again.”

The trial lasted eight hours. This was expected to be the last hearing in the case. The judge, however, annouced a further hearing for 12 April 2017.

As Ahmet was leaving the courtroom, he turned to his colleagues watching the trial and shouted:

“We will demolish this blockade.”

 

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Over 120,000 Romanians protest in central Bucharest, violence breaks out after a few hundred hooligans start chucking flares at the police: eye-witness report

Bucharest 1 February 2017. A kiosk on fire. Tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators leave as violence from a minority sparks up

NB: This has been written down quickly, and may contain errors, so will be subject to change: any criticisms are welcome

 

I was not sure whether it was tear gas or pepper spray. It’s like chilli without the taste. It hits you at the back of throat. Instead of a flavour kick, it irritates you, resembling a cheap flu remedy. Then there is pain. And then the fear it could happen again.

Following a peaceful protest that attracted over 100,000 Romanians to demonstrate opposite the Government building in the capital’s central Piata Victoriei, violence broke out.

This is how it happened.

A group of hooligans started by setting off flares and chucking them at the cordon of armed riot police. The police stood firm, but were prepared. They had even positioned themselves in the exact location where the violence was about to escalate.

Then the plastic bottles started flying in the direction of the police. The crowd began to disperse. And opened up a pitch for a confrontation to take place. This did not happen at this stage. A few of the hooligans then began to pull out the metal cordons and throw them around the empty space. None of them attempted, as a group, to challenge or incite the police directly.

Some members of the rest of the crowd began to challenge the hooligans asking them what the fuck they were doing. This is a peaceful protest. Why are you messing this up? The answer was not to antagonize them further. Everyone from behind me began to shout “Without violence”.

Tens of thousands of people then began to leave the Piata - afraid of what might happen. The zone was then occupied by a few hundred men between the ages of 20 and 40, who began to throw snowballs at the police.

A few people started to sit down in the square. But this was not a university they were occupying with nice middle-class scholars - it was now an open square hosting rioters with an unclear intent.

When the police moved forward a few steps, they ran back, and when people start running, everyone starts running. Slowly the police began to occupy more areas of the Piata.

Then came the tear gas. It carried through the air and smack into the face of a few of the demonstrators who could not see, and had to be assisted by friends out of the central square. A few pockets of violence then began. This included a group who set fire to an advertising kiosk. When the firemen came to put out the flames, they told them to leave it and let it burn. Until I left, what followed were running battles between the riot cops and men chucking plastic bottles, flares and snowballs. It looked to be a few hundred men involved in urging a battle - possibly 500 or more. Since then more fires have started at the end of Calea Victoriei.

For five hours, the capital emptied onto the streets tonight. The crowd was angry and the crowd was peaceful. One could even call the demonstration boring and cold. In parts there was a carnival atmosphere, with drummers - even a man dressed as Dracula. The evolution of this protest was moving into a more creative direction.

One man was giving out plastic cups of popcorn instead of bullets. There were over 100,000 attendees. The media has alleged in the past that many of these were paid to be there. I hate to think who is losing so much money on these people. Their numbers increase with every new decision made by this Government.

No one wanted to come out on a sub-zero Wednesday in February to protest against a change in a legal code in Romania. This is not a fight that the people of Bucharest wanted to have. But they wanted to stand up for their principles. Romania is shuffling off its international stereotype as a poverty-stricken backwater that fuels the shitty jobs in western Europe to become, in only a decade, a model member of the European Union. Its fight against high level corruption is the envy of the rest of the region. Romania now has a brand. The brand of a justice system that is dynamic and effective. Romania is the country that gets results. And the people want to protect that brand, nurture it, and help it nourish the rest of the nation - which still sees huge disparities in wealth and the distribution of power.   

This pitch battle (which is continuing as I write) will only confuse the issue. It is not representative of even a small fraction of the demonstrators. When there is violence, the news will focus on violence. The camera naturally turns to a blaze, or a screaming face, or a fist raised in the air. As journalists, we cannot shake this addiction to such dramatics.

The problem for the crowd was that these hooligans were organised, with a singular purpose, while the protestors were not. 

 

The background 

 

Romania’s Government has declared a war on the war against corruption. The Government, backed by the Social Democratic Party, issued an emergency decree on Tuesday 31 January rendering public misconduct legal if the damages are less that 50,000 Euro.

This also gives amnesty to those who have been convicted or face indictment for these crimes in the past - which means the National Anti-Corruption Department has to drop cases against politicians who are investigated for such crimes. These decisions will affect over 2,000 cases brought by the DNA into official misconduct.

It is likely this would include the current president of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, viewed as the kingmaker of the current Government.

Officially the move is intended to reduce overcrowding in prison, but the focus on official misconduct, rather than minor crimes such as theft, indicates that this will favour an amnesty on public officials.

One of my friends said this will “set fire to the country to save politicians from prison”. So far, only advertising kiosks have been burnt down. As I write, this may have gotten worse.

Romania has become a model in the region for fighting corruption due to the efforts of the Anti-Corruption Department (DNA) which investigates graft and malfeasance among high-level officials.

The President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, said: “The Government has ignored the dreams and aspirations of millions of free Romanians who want to live in a country liberated from corruption.”

One hopes those dreams and aspirations may not have gone up in the flames of a kiosk in Bucharest’s central business district.

 
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The technology behind scouting through the largest leak in sports history

For more visit our Football Leaks homepage

#FootballLeaks

The ugly heart of the beautiful game: Football Leaks continues to expose fraud, corruption and tax dodging (Photo credit: Nissen Mads, Politiken)

 

In April 2016, the European Investigative Collaborations network of 12 major national news organisations received a dataset detailing shady business in football, and set about investigating the mass of rich contents.

This consisted of email inboxes, a bunch of PDF and Word documents, zip and rar archives, whatsapp conversations and encrypted hushmail communication. Out of 1.9TB of data, our team analyzed one terabyte of data, which yielded more than 6 million individual documents

It was the largest leak in the history of sport and was made available to the investigative team of German news magazine Der Spiegel.

One of the options for EIC journalists to search through the data was a server that we set up at the Romanian Centre of Investigative Journalism (RCIJ), using whatever hardware was at hand.

Specifically, a 2011 MacBook Pro with an after-market SSD, to which we hooked up a large USB drive. It turns out that the MacBook, with quad I7 processors, is a powerful beast, and could churn through the documents at an impressive rate.

We processed the data in stages, using a tool we built for this project called ‘Snoop’. To get started, we listed all the files in the dataset, and stored them in a PostgreSQL database. Then we extracted the text from the easy emails (from Apple Mail inboxes) and indexed them into elasticsearch, a versatile open-source search database.

Now we wanted to give our journalists access to the search engine so they could start their work.

 

Maximising Security

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is difficult to set up and support, and replicating the search engine on-premises for each of the 12 news organizations would require hardware and people to take care of each server. We didn't have the resources for that. So we set up a secure HTTPS website, two-factor authentication using the TOTP protocol, time-limited login sessions, rate limiting and traffic logging, which gave us enough confidence to open up the server to our network of journalists, over the public Internet.

We implemented a straightforward process for sign-up and account recovery: the user would get a URL, which contained a short-lived code, that opened a form page. Here they would choose a password, and set up a second factor for authentication, with a compatible phone app like Google Authenticator or Duo Mobile. This process went smoothly and saved us a lot of support work.

Then we went back to the dataset: we ran Tika, a tool that extracts text and metadata from a bunch of different file formats (PDFs, Word documents, etc). We also introduced the concept of file containers, so we could analyze email attachments and archive contents.

Emails were a particular challenge, because they have a tree-like structure of text parts and file attachments, with a bunch of headers with specific meanings, and they come in several file formats to boot. The email parser from Python’s standard library would handle anything that looked like standard RFC-822, and Apple Mail's "emlx" format is a simple adaptation of that. We converted Outlook files using msgconvert and readpst.

There were many scanned documents in the dataset, so early on, Der Spiegel made a big effort to process all PDFs and images through OCR - a process that retrieves the original text from printed documents. We added support in Snoop, matching the files by their unique MD5 checksum, and indexed the OCR output along with the original file.

Each feature added to Snoop would yield more documents for the search engine. To make sure we didn't miss anything, we re-processed the whole dataset every time, using caches to avoid duplicating expensive steps, like parsing emails, running Tika, and unpacking archives. Internally, each document has a unique identifier, so there are no duplicates in the index, and documents have stable URLs in the search engine.

We started out with a very basic user interface: a search box, highlighting for matches in search results, and clicking on a result opened a new tab with nothing more than a text-only preview of the document. As the project went on, we evolved the user interface (UI) with feedback from journalists, to a two-column layout with search results on the left and document preview on the right. Now we display a bunch of metadata for each document, along with links to download the original file, OCRed version (if available), and links to parent and child documents (e.g. email attachments, zip archive contents, and navigation of the original dataset's folder structure).

 
Problems Encountered

Journalists were incredibly forgiving with glitches and initial usability problems, as long as they could actually search through the files, and, over time, get access to more of the dataset, as we improved the processing toolchain. The whole group stayed in touch via Rocket.chat, an open-source clone of Slack, that we ran on a self-hosted Sandstorm server, and for the tech team, the questions, feedback and encouragement were invaluable. We hardly needed to set up monitoring in case the server went down - very soon we would receive worried (but friendly) messages and emails…

On the development team, coders Gabriel Vîjială, Dragoș Catarahia, Victor Avasiloaei and myself worked on the data processing and user interface, Coder Dan Achim integrated Hypothesis annotations, and Raluca Ciubotaru designed the user interface and helped us understand how journalists use the tool.

All of this work - document processing, indexing, the search interface, two-factor authentication and the signup process - is open source under the "hoover" umbrella project. We were in a unique position to build the tool, with constant user feedback, a large and varied real-life dataset, and hard publishing deadlines. Now we're smoothing out the rough edges so hoover can be used in other similar projects, both at EIC and in other places.

The source code is on GitHub - https://github.com/hoover - and includes an installation utility to get started quickly. If you try it out, we'd love to hear your experiences.

 

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Prominent Turkish journalist has been arrested over tweets

“If there was a free and fair judiciary, I would give you my testimony ... The failed coup doesn''t change the fact that there is a junta in power right now"

These words are from Turkish journalist Ahmet Şık to his Istanbul prosecutor following a charge of spreading ''terrorism'' through Twitter.

They are from yesterday.

Critics have called the prosecution of independent journalists in Turkey 'show trials'

 

Turkish authorities have now officially arrested Ahmet Şık, one of the country's most respected investigative journalists. 

He is charged with creating "propaganda for a terrorist organisation" and insulting the Turkish Republic, its judiciary, military and security forces.

The saga began at 5:56 on Thursday morning when 46 year-old Ahmet announced on Twitter: "I'm being detained. They're taking me to the prosecutor due to a tweet." 

 

 

Şık was then brought before a prosecutor and interrogated over his Twitter activity.

Several of his tweets are now being used as "evidence" that Ahmet created propaganda for the PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party), FETO (Fetullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation) and DHKP-C (Marxist-Leninist terrorist organisation).

The allegations, together with this grouping of organisations with contrasting and conflicing aims, is bizarre, as Şık has been one of the staunchest and most consistent critics of Gulen and his Islamist sect.

But like the so-called "evidence" against Şık, the prosecutorial line of questioning bordered on the farcical. 

At one point the prosecutor asked the journalist: “What did you mean by these tweets?” 

Şık’s lawyer, Tora Pekin, intervened, pointing out that it is the role of the prosecutor to first establish solid evidence demonstrating that Ahmet broke the law - instead of fishing for a response which could enable the journalist to incriminate himself.

Şık then refused to answer the prosecutor’s questions, declaring: “If there was a free and fair judiciary, I would give you my testimony.”

"The failed coup doesn't change the fact that there is a junta in power right now ... This [investigation] is an insult to my work ethics," he added.

The prosecutor presented the testimony to the Istanbul court yesterday (30 December 2016), and demanded Ahmet's arrest. Şık was brought before the Judge Atila Ozturk.

In his final defense, Şık said:

“I have been a journalist for 27 years seeking the truth. If I describe truth, the judge of my claims are the people, not the courts.

"I have no connection with any illegal organisations. I only stand against power. My aim has always been to disturb those in power, whichever party they come from. Because of this and because of my journalism, I have become the persona non grata of every era. This is a badge of honour for me. So actually, I do belong to an organisation, it’s called the truth. And my support is the people.”

The Turkish judicary has increasingly become a tool to silence critics of President Erdogan and to destroy the parliamentary gains of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), just as it was used to attack those who investigated the political influence of exiled-cleric, Fetulah Gulen, several years ago.

One of whom is Şık, who was previously jailed.

“The same thing happened to me five years ago. I was a target for the Gulenists," Şık told the judge.

"The same scenario is taking place again but by the Government this time. I would like to remind you that judges and prosecutors who put me in jail are themselves in jail now or they have fled the country. I want to remind you about this to show you that power is not permanent. It will not be permanent for those who are so arrogant now, because they’re drunk on power.”

Following Şık's statement, the judge called a recess. At around 7 pm he returned to the courtroom with his decision. It was unsuprising. Judge Ozturk stated that Şık showed no remorse for his actions and ordered his detention.

Şık’s lawyers said they will appeal.

The prosecutor will complete a full indictment and should inform Şık of a trial date.

According to the EU regulations accepted by Turkey, this process must be quick. Law experts state, however, that the state of emergency powers currently in place in Turkey since the attempted coup last July could mean that it is months before Şık and his lawyers are able to obtain the indictment and argue their case.

 
Turkey: "the biggest jail for journalists"

The charges against Ahmet stem mostly from his activity on Twitter. In recent weeks, he has criticised the Turkish government's arrest of Kurdish MPs and the state’s military operations in southeast of Turkey.

But the prosecutor also dredged up an interview with the head of the Kurdish Workers' Party (the PKK), conducted in March 2015 when the government and the PKK were in a ceasefire agreement, and two other reports for Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet.

Şık's remarks during a European Parliament workshop on press freedom were also used against him.

Ahmet is now held under the Turkish government's state of emergency powers, adopted following the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July this year.

This decree is being exploited by the state to jail dozens of journalists, academics and lawyers, as well as the closure of human rights organisations, such as the Ankara-based, Gundem Cocuk, an NGO fighting for the rights of children, who provided valuable data to The Black Sea during its investigation into child labour deaths in Turkey last year. 

According to a 2016 report by the Journalists’ Association of Turkey, in the last year 780 journalists had their press cards revoked, 839 journalists were brought before court over news coverage, and 143 journalists are currently in jail.

Turkey has the highest number of jailed journalists in the world. 

 
"Terror" tweets

Ahmet was arrested over several tweets he made between late November and early December 2016.

 

 

Tweet 1: "If Sirri Sureyya Onder is guilty of these charges, then don’t many people including the ones sitting in the [Presidential] Palace need to be charged too?"

Onder, MP for the People's Democratic Party (HDP), a pro-Kurdish political party with seats in the Turkish partliament, was detained in November for terrorism-related charges because of a photograph taken of him with a member of the PKK's media team.

The HDP, however, were part of the team negotiating a peace deal between the Government and PKK, which also including members of AKP - hence the questioning tone of Şık's tweet.

 

 

Tweet 2: "Instead of comparing people burned to death in Cizre and people blown up in Istanbul, why don’t you get angry about both of them? It's violence either way."

In February this year, 60 people burned to death in an apartment basement in Cizre, southeast Turkey, as they took shelter during Turkish army bombing campaign against the PKK.

The military claimed it "neutralised" several PKK soldiers, but others, including HDP members, said civilians were among those killed. 

Hence Şık's appeal to moral equivalence, which he makes at the same time as not condoning either terrorism or Government-backed arson.

 

 

Tweet 3 "Instead of arresting Tahir Elci [lawyer] they chose to murder him, you are a murderous mafia."

Elci was head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, and a human rights lawyer who defended the rights of Kurds in Turkey.

He was shot and killed in November last year moments before being due to issue a press statement calling for an end to the violence in the south east of the country. 

No one has been arrested for the assassination, but the family and some HDP members blame the Government.

 

A fierce critic of Gulen and Erdogan

Ahmet was previously jailed for 375 days in 2011, along with fellow journalist Nedim Sener.

They were accused of being members of a so-called terrorist organisation called "Ergenekon", which the AKP said was plotting to overthrow the Government. 

Ahmet's unpublished book, The Imam's Army, about the infiltration of Turkey's institutions by followers of Fetulah Gulen - blamed for the recent coup -  caused his prior arrest.

In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Turkish government violated the rights of Ahmet and Sener.

Two years later, Turkey's supreme court quashed the Ergenekon convictions, stating that the prosecutor - who fled Turkey last year - failed to establish that the 'terrorist organisation' had ever even existed.

 

 

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Investigative journalist held in Turkey

"I''m being detained. They''re taking me to the prosecutor due to a tweet" Ahmet Şık

Turkish police detained investigative journalist Ahmet Şık at his home in Istanbul today, accusing him of creating "propaganda for a terrorist organisation" and insulting the Turkish Republic, its judiciary, military and security forces.

46 year-old Ahmet announced on Twitter at 5:56 this morning that: "I'm being detained. They're taking me to the prosecutor due to a tweet."

The charges stem from his activity on Twitter criticising the Turkish government's arrest of Kurdish MPs.

Also added to the mix is a 2015 interview with the head of the Kurdish Workers' Party (the PKK), considered a terrorist organisation by NATO and the EU, and two other reports in Turkish daily Cumhuriyet.

The motivation for the arrest also include remarks made by Şık during a European Parliament workshop on press freedom.

 

Ahmet has been held under the Turkish Government's state of emergency powers, which were adopted following the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July this year.

This decree has been used to jail dozens of journalists, academics and lawyers, and to shut down human rights' organisations. 

The use of emergency powers means Ahmet will be denied access to any legal services for the next five days.

His lawyer, Can Atalay, told the Turkish news website Bianet that "the police are not allowing us to see Ahmet with the excuse that the process is ongoing."

Atalay later confirmed to the BBC that he is banned from speaking to Ahmet.

 
"Terror" tweets

The Turkish Anadolu Agency, a state news organisation and mouthpiece of Turkey's ruling party, the AKP, reported that Ahmet was detained over three tweets he made between late November and early December 2016.

 

 

Tweet 1: "If Sirri Sureyya Onder is guilty of these charges, then don’t many people including the ones sitting in the [Presidential] Palace need to be charged too?"

 

Onder, MP for the People's Democratic Party (HDP), a pro-Kurdish political party with seats in the Turkish partliament, was detained in November for terrorism-related charges because of a photograph taken of him with a member of the PKK's media team.

The HDP, however, were part of the team negotiating a peace deal between the Government and PKK, which also including members of AKP - hence the questioning tone of Şık's tweet.

 

 

Tweet 2: "The war with the PKK, even though there have been pauses, has been going on since 1984. Instead of comparing people burned to death in Cizre and people blown up in Istanbul, why don’t you get angry about both of them?

 

In February this year, 60 people burned to death in an apartment basement in Cizre, southeast Turkey, as they took shelter during Turkish army bombing campaign against the PKK.

The military claimed it "neutralised" several PKK soldiers, but others, including HDP members, said civilians were among those killed. 

Hence Şık's appeal to moral equivalence, which he makes at the same time as not condoning either terrorism or Government-backed arson.

 

 

Tweet 3 "Instead of arresting Tahir Elci [lawyer] they chose to murder him, you are a murderous mafia."

 

Elci was head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, and a human rights lawyer who defended the rights of Kurds in Turkey.

He was shot and killed in November last year moments before being due to issue a press statement calling for an end to the violence in the south east of the country. 

No one has been arrested for the assassination, but the family and some HDP members blame the Government.

Hence the anger in Şık's Tweet.

 

A fierce critic of Gulen and Erdogan

Ahmet was previously jailed for 375 days in 2011, along with fellow journalist Nedim Sener.

They were accused of being members of a so-called terrorist organisation called "Ergenekon", which the AKP said was plotting to overthrow the Government. 

Ahmet's unpublished book, The Imam's Army, about the infiltration of Turkey's institutions by followers of Fetulah Gulen - blamed for the recent coup -  caused his prior arrest.

In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Turkish government violated the rights of Ahmet and Sener.

Two years later, Turkey's supreme court quashed the Ergenekon convictions, stating that the prosecutor - who fled Turkey last year - failed to establish that the 'terrorist organisation' had ever existed.

 

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Cypriot Club Apollon Limassol is at the centre of a scandal involving the transfer of players for non-sporting reasons - here we go into depth about the story of Andrija Zivkovic - the man who didn''t know he was sold to Apollon

Main story on the Paper Player of Cyprus here

#FootballLeaks

Andrija Zivkovic: unaware he was sold to Apollon, now fully conscious of his move to Benfica

 

In July 2016, media in Cyprus published pictures with the Cypriot club Apollon Limassol’s president Nikos Kirzis and the Brazil and Barcelona forward Neymar. They were spending their holiday in Las Vegas with a common friend: Israeli superagent Pini Zahavi. 

While the trio was partying in Vegas, another Serbian talent left Belgrade for Benfica after months of quarrel.

Andrija Zivkovic (now 20 years old) was a hot prospect raised by Partizan’s renown academy that was sold abroad leaving his formative club with almost nothing. 

Zivkovic is known as the “Serbian Messi”. But instead of a call-up from Barcelona, he had one from Apollon.

Back in July 2014, Apollon Limassol secretly bought 50 per cent of the economic rights of this talented winger for 1.2 million Euro from Partizan, leaving the Serb club with only 25 per cent of the rights.

At that time, Zivkovic himself did not even know that this transaction was taking place.

The contract also included a controversial “friendly” clause to Apollon: it stated that Partizan will grant to sell the player to a third club “subject to an offer to purchase the player and to employ him with a minimum amount of 400,000 Euro net per year”. Had Zivkovic refused to sign for this third club, Partizan would have been forced to pay Apollon half of the amount offered for the player purchase. 

Let’s put it like that: had a third club offered six million Euro for Zivkovic, but the player refused their terms, Partizan had to pay Apollon three million Euro. Just for doing nothing. This clause was deemed “criminal” by Serbian lawyers contacted by the media in Belgrade. 

The situation then went out of control. The Partizan Belgrade president who agreed to sell this hot prospect under these conditions departed the club, and the new board put pressure on Apollon by slipping the contract to the press. 

Still, Apollon had a firm contract signed by Partizan officials and they were not prepared to lose the player. Zivkovic was pressured by the club to leave, he stubbornly refused to transfer and was subsequently sent to train with the B team, Teleoptik Belgrade. 

Meanwhile, soon after 2016 New Year’s Day, Benfica president Luis F. Vieira received multiple emails from a “socio” - a fan that is paying his annual fee to the club - telling him:

“Zivkovic is worth every penny invested in him. It would be an enormous pride and an enormous motivation for all the fans and the players to sign this enormous player”. 

After some unanswered emails, Luis F. Vieira decided to disclose the situation to the Benfica fan: “We are on top of him. We can reach an agreement if his father drops the numbers”.

In other words, if his father lowers the price. 

“It will bring us an enormous joy,” the ecstatic fan responded.  

In July 2016, he had every reason to be over the moon. The 19-year old Andrija Zivkovic signed for Benfica for an unknown fee. The Portuguese media wrote about a figure of four million Euro in “commissions and signing on fees”. Journalists at Portuguese sports journal Record announced the transfer fee: nothing.  

This is bizarre. According to a clause from the contract between Partizan and Apollon, the Serbian club “was entitled to receive an additional payment, equal to 10 per cent from Apollon’s net profit, of any sum above four million Euro to be received as consideration for future transfer of the rights over the player”. 

With Zivkovic’s transfer to Benfica allegedly being completed without any official fee, Apollon appears to have no profit to share with Partizan.

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Cypriot Club Apollon Limassol is at the centre of a scandal involving the transfer of players for non-sporting reasons - here we go into depth about the story of Nikola Maksimovic

Main story on the Paper Player of Cyprus here

#FootballLeaks

 

Maksimovic in Turin colours: 2015

Following in the footsteps of former Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic, 25 year-old Serbian centre-back Nikola Maksimovic began football at upstart club Sloboda Uzice before moving to Serbian giant Red Star.

After only six months in Belgrade, he was sold in September 2012 for just one million Euro. The buyer is once again Apollon. 

He was allowed to stay playing at Red Star, under the understanding he would transfer to Apollon in the January 2013 transfer window in a three-year deal.

But this only happened on paper. 

He remained at Red Star. 

Asked whether he had ever been to Cyprus, Maksimovic replied: “I do not talk anymore on this issue and there is no need to go back and discuss this issue anymore.”

Without playing a single minute in Cyprus, Maksimovic went on loan to Torino. On 22 July 2013, the Seria A club agreed to pay a 350,000 Euro fee and retained an exclusive option right to take the defender on a permanent transfer. The next day, Maksimovic signed a five year contract despite being on loan for only one season. 

Torino had until May 2014 to exercise their option in exchange for a 3.5 million Euro amount. The eventual trimestrial instalments of 300,000 Euro each (only the first payment differed - 200,000 Euro) were structured over the next three years. 

The last payment was scheduled for June 2017. 

This is the key to an incredible clause introduced next in the contract by the Israeli lawyer Ehud Shochatovitch. He’s the one that looks after the interests of Israeli superagent Pini Zahavi. In Football Leaks, Shochatovitch signs documents in the name of offshore companies from British Virgin Islands to Luxembourg, sends emails to Portuguese club officials in the name of this employer and talks with Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia about transfer judicial strategies. 

His email address is mentioned at the end of the loan agreement between Apollon and Torino as a correspondence address. This is further proof that Pini Zahavi holds great influence over the Cypriot club. A few lines under Ehud’s contact detail, Torino chairman Urbano R. Cairo signed and agreed to the following sentences:

“In any case in which Torino FC S.P.A has exercised the option and sells the player’s rights and transfers the player to another club on a permanent basis (“Future Transfer”) before it has completed the payment of the entire Purchase Consideration stipulated above. For the remaining amount to be paid by Torino FC S.P.A. of 3.500.000 Euro, Torino FC S.P.A. will pay to Apollon a percentage of the amount  paid to Torino FC S.P.A. for the transfer which will equal to the percentage still due to Apollon of 3.500.000 Euro in that moment”. 

Events that followed placed Torino in the situation mentioned above.

On 20 May 2014, ten days left before the deadline, Urbano Cairo informed Apollon that his club will exercise their option. 

They agreed to transfer Maksimovic under the terms already agreed. The Serbian already became an integral part of a Torino team that established itself in Seria A following their promotion in 2012. But for a metatarsal fracture that kept him on the sideline for a few months, Maksimovic regularly played in the first team and drew the attention of bigger clubs. 

In the last day of the 2016 summer transfer window, he went to Napoli. The terms of the deal are bizarre. 

Maksimovic was loaned for one season, but the fee is unusually high. Napoli agreed to pay five million Euro now and 20 million Euro next summer when they will permanently transfer the defender. The definitive transfer was set and done from August 2016 but the clubs preferred to loan the player for the first season. 

Had Maksimovic been transferred on 31 August 2016 to Napoli for 25 million Euro, Torino would have been forced to pay Apollon a huge amount of money. On that day, they were still 1.2 million Euro away from the 3.5 million Euro payment completion to the club in Cyprus. That is 34 per cent of the agreed transfer fee. 

Under the terms agreed by Urbano Cairo, Torino would have been bound to pay Apollon 34 per cent of the 25 million Euro fee from Napoli. Instead of 1.2 million, the club controlled by Zahavi would have received 8.5 million Euro, an undesirable 7.3 million loss for the Italian club. 

Now, let’s do a simple calculation: 2.3 million plus 8.5 million equal 10.8 million. This would have been the Apollon total income following Maksimovic sale to Torino. As a domino effect, Red Star would have been entitled to ten per cent of Apollon net profit from a future transfer. Mind that they sold Maksimovic for one million Euro. The base for making calculations is the 9.8 million Euro difference. If you deduct the player and agents expenses, Red Star would still be able to claim a hundreds of thousands Euro compensation. 

But after Torino and Napoli agreed to delay the permanent transfer for one season, all these calculations seem to be in vain.

 

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