Juliana Ruhfus

Juliana Ruhfus

Global Journalist

Part one

I am a television journalist and broadcaster who specializes in investigations and current affairs.   Our film about pirate fishing off the coast of Sierra Leone, was one of the most effective we’ve

Juliana Ruhfus at Al Jazera Office

film maker broadcaster and investigative journalist

made, leading to fines for the ships.

The following year, the fleet of 10 South Korean fishing ships disappeared, resulting in the fishing catch going up and the coast recovered.   Even though I have to say they went somewhere else.

I am most excited about  re-designing this investigation into a new media project, where the user becomes the journalist and is taken into the process of evidence gathering. Then has to decide in a gameified way what is criminal evidence and what is back ground investigation.

It is quite exciting to know that people are using this in schools to teach journalism and to reach younger audiences It was much more new-technology led, but it was exciting in terms of pushing the boundaries, not just in terms of story content, but actually the form in terms of how stories are told.

Cambodian Orphans

view from Juliana's officeWe went undercover, as a couple in Cambodian orphanages to show that there is a gap year industry, fed by young people, sometimes middle aged people, wanting to be volunteers, to do good in developing countries. The favourite placement  is for volunteers in orphanages. So in Cambodia and elsewhere, orphanages start springing up.

Kids, who are not orphans get taken away from their parents. It’s a great money spinner. It’s nearly the perfect crime, to have children kept in deliberate poverty to encourage donations. Once you have a volunteer getting attached to the children, they will send money for years to come for education and food, thinking to sponsor a kid when the money goes to the orphanage directors.

We were working with an NGO who had a an email track record of complaints against a specific set of orphanages.  We went under cover to investigate that.

More than just going against the Cambodian government, we were after a UK company, that kept sending volunteers, despite being sent emails, allegations, yet the placement company ignored that.

Our goal was also  to the providers. As a gap year volunteer, you have to wake up and smell the coffee. You have a duty of care. Eventually the UK company decided not to send volunteers, into orphanages any more. The first criminal prosecution, for neglect,  was  important. The orphanages we investigated were closed down by the Cambodian authorities.

Access or compromise

You are always access led. It’s getting into a a certain place that will make your film good. I don’t think that the access compromises my journalism, because I have an edit where I get to rethink the situation and where I can add things in the script and I get to balance the situation. That’s a style in which I like filming.

While we were in Somalia, there was a massive rift between the Prime Minister and the President, but no one was going to talk to us about it because it was so political. But then we were just rolling at the airport as the President was in a meeting with an American delegation. The Prime Minster didn’t know that, and he barged into the VIP lounge. That was a really good way to show that there is a rift, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. If you roll a lot, you hoover up things. That’s my favourite filming, Sometimes you get gold or you can get nothing.

Sex trafficking in Nigeria

One of my films which has done incredibly well was the two part investigation into the trafficking of Nigerian women into the Italian sex trade. One film was shot in Italy with women who’ve been trafficked, and also with really good access to the Italian police.

The Juju oath

Back in Nigeria we wanted to investigate the problem at source. The girls have to take the Juju oath before they are trafficked. (They think they’re being offered a good job in Europe before they take the oath) Then they believe that if they run away, the oath will kill them. Which means that when they’re in Europe it’s almost impossible to get them off the streets. They believe if they don’t pay the money back, they will die. A Nigerian colleague of mine went undercover as a trafficker and got access to the Juju priest.


I always struggle with the question of danger, because I feel that I try and assess the danger of a situation before I go. In Somalia I felt strongly that we shouldn’t bump up the danger. In the parliament, politicians have daily been attacked and shelled and blown up by IEDs. For us to go in and spend one day in parliament was very dangerous, as there were threats on that particular day.

Who am I to highlight my danger if these politicians actually sitting here, every time, they take that risk. That’s what the film should be about. Yes a place like Somalia is dangerous, but I have the privilege to go in, go home, and escape the danger. People who live there don’t.

Advantages of being a woman

One the biggest advantage of being a woman is that people underestimate you. Please be my guest. Men just don’t take you very seriously. It can really give you access. As a western woman you are quite often seen as a weird in-between sexless kind of thing. Men don’t really want to touch you. During an interview, they look like they’re sending a text, but really they’re recording you on their cameras. On that shoot in Libya with the Selafist it happened a lot.

Core Values

Integrity. If I promise somebody something, my word is good. If I interview somebody I may not like, I would always try to portray them in the fairest possible way. As an editor I may interfere with people’s voices, but I aspire to be as truthful as possible to what they want to say. Viewers are smart enough to pass their own judgment, and to understand a situation.

Global journalism
The one thing I have learnt if there is anything to make money off, they will do it. They will sell anything, they will sell babies, they will steal your organs.

This is why journalists really need to globalize. Crime globalized a long time ago, and I think organizations like the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists do really fantastic cross border work. They strike up collaborations with investigative journalists, in different countries. Luxleaks current issue about tax payers, was the perfect example. Journalist collaborating in different t parts of the world.

Crime does this very well, why shouldn’t we?

©2015 Christina.wwom.org


One Response

  1. […] Juliana Ruhfus Part two […]

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