German investigative non-profit CORRECTIV launched its sanctions tracker less than a week after the invasion of Ukraine. In an interview with OJB, Olaya Argüeso Perez talks about the background to the project, how it’s been used — and what they’ve learned since.
“It was my co-editor-in-chief Justus von Daniels who had the idea”
“We were discussing how to address the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a non-daily investigative outlet,” Olaya says. “And very soon we realized that the sanctions were going to play key role as the main and maybe only Western tool against Russia and its allies.”
The information was out there, she says, but in formats that made it difficult to have a good overview of what was actually happening.
“We knew about Friedrich Lindenberg’s OpenSanctions database and that’s when we started talking to him and a former colleague, Simon Wörpel, to see whether we could set up a website that could only focus on sanctions against Russia — and that could be automatically updated.”
Once it was clear that they could create such a tool, CORRECTIV’s head of design, Benjamin Schubert, started working on a design.
“The exchange of ideas happened very quickly, and only 4-5 days passed since inception to publication.
“The German version was first and a day later we released the English version, since we realized there was a potential international audience for the tracker.”
“Lawyers and other professionals have thanked us for setting up the tracker”
Olaya says the intended audience for the tool is “anyone interested in having a better overview on the current situation, whether it would be journalists, researchers or just citizens with an interest in the topic.
“Obviously it was also thought to serve as a source of investigative stories for Correctiv’s reporters.”
The tool has enjoyed an enthusiastic response, she adds. Academics and journalists using the tool, and fact checking teams are finding it “very useful” too.
“The main take for me is the idea of keeping it simple.”
“That’s what helped us deliver so quickly,” she says. “But also having a multidisciplinary, committed team wanting to contribute to provide a tool that could help others in informing or researching on this (unfortunately) so important and urgent topic.
That simplicity does come with caveats, however.
“The tracker is as good as it gets,” says Olaya “But it is also limited in its scope.
“The results are filtered to show sanctions by the EU, UK, US and Switzerland that target Russia. That means there are relevant instances that do not show up.
“A good example would be Nordstream 2 AG, the company that manages the pipeline between Russia and Germany. Since it is based in Switzerland, it is not included in our tracker.”