El Instituto Prensa y Sociedad of Venezuela [The Institute for Press and Society], or IPYS, presented Rainforest Investigations Fellows María de los Ángeles Ramírez, Joseph Poliszuk, and Rainforest Journalism Fund grantee, María Antonieta Segovia with the top prize for investigative journalism in Venezuela on Thursday, June 30, 2022. The judging committee, composed of critics from Venezuela, Chile, and Peru, noted the trio’s innovative use of “artificial intelligence in service of rural reporting” in their project, Corredor Furtivo.
Work for Corredor Furtivo began in January 2022 in partnership with El País, Armando.info, and EarthRise Media, in addition to the Rainforest Investigations Network. Sketching dense networks of power, plunder, and ordinary people, Ramírez, Poliszuk, and Segovia exposed illegal mining operations via satellite and intelligent image processing; documented Indigenous resistance to the mining; and identified the criminals responsible.
In an interview with the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), Poliszuk said: “We decided to do this right in the middle of the pandemic because there was still news happening.”
When reached for comment, Poliszuk attributed support through the RIN Fellowship as essential to tracking environmental crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic: "We knew that this phenomenon had no quarantine," he said. "Against the current dynamics of the world, deforestation and the invasion of irregular groups in this territory was enhanced during the pandemic. But in addition to being dangerous, expensive and challenging, we wanted to start with a guide that would allow us to see the hotspots."
Together with the RIN team and Executive Editor Marina Walker Guevara, the Corredor Furtivo team forged a path to report on the vast, remote Venezuelan Amazon region. Poliszuk added, "I feel that this wasn't just a project or fellowship, but a kind of think tank in which, together, we were able to come to fruition."
Rainforest Journalism Fund grantee Helena Carpio and her team at Prodavinci also received a special mention from IPYS Venezuela for her project, Naturaleza en Llamas [Forests to Ashes]. Published in May 2021, Naturaleza en Llamas examines a country scorched by two decades of frequent fires, kindled by a changing climate.
The IPYS founded their national contest in 2009 as a recommitment to “a culture of transparency through the press, one of democracy’s aspirations.” Today, the organization sees hundreds of entrants; this year’s pieces were published between March 16, 2021, and March 15, 2022.