Human Trafficking and Slavery: A Guide to Resource Materials

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Slavery is thought by many to have been banished in an earlier age, but millions of people remain in forced labor around the world. The statistics, in fact, are jaw-dropping: researchers estimate 40 million people exist in some form of slavery today, ranging from debt bondage and false contracts to sex trafficking, forced marriage and child labor.

Migrant workers, who account for some 60 percent of the world’s 244 million international migrants, are particularly susceptible to abuse, as are those trafficked and pressed into prostitution. Some 152 million children are believed subject to child labor.

The techniques used by journalists to investigate human trafficking and forced labor range from following elaborate supply chains to sometimes dangerous undercover work. The challenges for journalists are considerable.

“Sex trafficking is a dark and complex issue that requires reporters to press beyond our reflexes, but it is also a somewhat untapped reservoir of stories that are prescient, necessary and – believe or not – begging to be told,” observed J. David McSwane of The Dallas Morning News. “In this ongoing tragedy, there are lessons in psychology, policy, law enforcement, biology, economics, philosophy, humanity and compassion. Yet we struggle to tell these stories well.”

To help journalists, GIJN has created this collection of resources on these issues. We’ve brought together sources of data, documents and reports, places to find expertise and advice on best practices in reporting and investigation. Here’s a quick overview of what’s available:

  • Data and Expertise: As a basis for research and reporting, we have compiled this spreadsheet detailing more than 60 places to find data and expertise.
  • Archive of Investigative Stories: After surveying coverage since 2015, we’ve compiled a library of nearly 60 investigative reports on the topic.
  • Best Practices in Reporting: We’ve interviewed a dozen top journalists and experts to get their advice on best practices in investigating human trafficking and forced labor. You’ll find tips on needed skills, such as interviewing trafficking victims, evaluating the data, collaborating, and sometimes, being stealthy. And we’ve included what media critics are saying about journalism in this arena.

Let us know what we might have left out. GIJN welcomes further contributions for this resource page. Please write us here.


Credit for photo above: Kay Chernush for the US State Department.

This guide was put together by Toby McIntosh, director of GIJN’s Resource Center. He was with Bloomberg BNA in Washington for 39 years. He is the former editor of FreedomInfo.org (2010-2017), where he wrote about FOI policies worldwide, and serves on the steering committee of FOIANet, an international network of FOI advocates.

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