Emmanuel Freudenthal, a freelance reporter in Africa and Peabody award winner

October 29, 2020

Emmanuel Freudenthal studied economics at UTS in Sydney, then anthropology and politics at the University of Oxford. He’s fluent in French, English and Hebrew, and gets by in Spanish and Swahili. Emmanuel is a freelance reporter based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who has been conducting investigations all over Africa for a decade. He focuses on stories that break entirely new ground, from nerdy data analysis to war reporting. Two of his corruption investigations that used public documents, such as financial reports and court judgements, have led to ongoing police inquiries in Australia and Canada. He’s also crunched data to calculate the time that Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has spent on private trips abroad (4.5 years). As part of a BBC team, he won a Peabody award for an open-source investigation finding the soldiers who murdered two women and two children while filming themselves on a smartphone. He also goes on extended reporting trips in places that are difficult to access, becoming the first journalist to spend a week with anglophone armed groups in Cameroon. His stories have been published by the BBC, Le Monde, Libération, The New Humanitarian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph, African Arguments, Journal de Montréal, TV5 and others.


Welcome, Emmanuel! We are delighted to hear about your extensive experience with conducting investigations. Could you please tell our readers a bit about yourself?

I’m a freelance journalist who focuses on investigations in Africa. I’m based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and work all over Africa. I’ve done investigations in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. You can see all of my stories on my website here: https://www.emmanuel-freudenthal.com/ and I’m also on twitter : https://twitter.com/emmanfre

As a freelance journalist, I work with many different outlets. One of my most recent stories looked into corruption in the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and how this contributed to resentment against health workers. For example, in the investigation on corruption in the Ebola response in DRC, I relied on testimonies from people working for the Ebola response, leaked documents and grey literature that I found online:



What kind of qualitative data do you typically analyze?

On a typical investigation, I analyze audio recordings, transcripts and documents. My work involves a mix of information sources. I nearly always rely on interviews in the field, which are often recorded and then transcribed. I also collect data from the people I talk to, online research and sometimes I also do Freedom of Information requests. I take photos as well, but usually those are used to illustrate the articles rather than as a source of information.


How do you tend to use ATLAS.ti?

The way I use ATLAS.ti is primarily to analyze interview transcripts and code them in order to write articles. So far, the coding of quotations in interviews has been the most useful feature for me. I can tag the transcripts of all my interviews with a loose set of codes, then group the codes together to look at one theme at a time. For example, I can look at all of the interviews where someone talked to me about corruption generally, or specifically about corruption schemes in car rentals. This enables me to quickly cross-check facts rather than juggle several interview notes. It also makes it easier to find the best quotes when I write my article.

The ability to link the transcript with the audio is very useful too (I use f4 to do the transcripts). This functionality means that I can take some rough notes first and then return to do verbatim transcription for the parts that I want to quote.

Going forward, I think I’ll also use ATLAS.ti more to draw connections between various facts and entities using the network visualization. Then I’ll be able to lay out series of links between people, companies and assets. This could enable me to analyze patterns, as well as to keep track of all the links that I’ve established.


Why did you decide to use ATLAS.ti?

I wanted to analyze nearly 100 interviews for a project and realized that this would be very difficult without a qualitative analysis software. I tried a bunch of different options and chose ATLAS.ti because I like the interface the best. The company has been really kind and offered me a free license which helped a lot because journalism doesn’t pay very well. Now I’m finding new ways to use the software, such as the network visualization I’ve mentioned above.


Do you have any tips or suggestions about using ATLAS.ti for our readers?

ATLAS.ti is quite powerful and has many functions. so I’d suggest watching the video overview (like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43U7503Rm20) to get a handle on the workflow. Otherwise you can get a bit lost initially even if you’re quite techy.

I’m not sure if there are other journalists using software like ATLAS.ti but I think it could be helpful to some of my colleagues. If there’s others who use it, then please get in touch so we can exchange tips!


Thank you very much Emmanuel, and we wish you all the best in your investigations!

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