Veteran U.S. reporter Carl Bernstein, best known for uncovering the Watergate scandal, is among the hundreds of journalists, academics and advocates gathering in Winnipeg for an investigative journalism conference this weekend.
About 320 delegates from around the world are meeting in the Manitoba capital for Holding Power to Account: Investigative Journalism, Democracy and Human Rights, an event organized by CBC and the University of Winnipeg.
The conference began Friday morning with an opening speech by CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge and a lunchtime keynote by Bernstein about the Watergate scandal.
The timing of Bernstein's speech comes 40 years after he and Bob Woodward released All the President's Men, their account of the Watergate break-in and cover-up that ultimately led to the resignation of then-president Richard Nixon.
Also speaking on Friday is David Milgaard, who will talk about his wrongful murder conviction and the media's role in exposing such injustices.
Some of CBC/Radio-Canada's top investigative journalists will speak, including Linden MacIntyre and Bob McKeown of the fifth estate and Alain Gravel and Marie-Maude Denis of Enquête.
Other speakers and delegates include journalists from CTV, Global, Sun Media, the Toronto Star, the Hamilton Spectator, Winnipeg Free Press and others.
More than 70 speakers will be in attendance from all over the world, including Canada, the U.S., South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, Austria, Tunisia, India, Bosnia, Kenya, Germany, Australia and other countries. As well, a number of young journalists are coming from different countries to share their experiences working in difficult conditions.
Murali Krishnan, an investigative reporter based in New Delhi, has been in the business for 25 years.
From 2000 to 2013, Krishnan monitored corruption in sports, specifically cricket.
"There will always be elements out there out to corrupt the game, and sports administrators around the world, be it cricket, football, rugby or any other game, will have to be more vigilant and will have to perhaps introduce more active and strict measures to root out corruption," he said.
More widely, Krishnan said, as globalization continues, questioning authority becomes more important.
“People are beginning to question governments,” he said. “[This conference] has resonance and vibrates through large sections of society, not just perhaps in Canada, but across the world, especially in the developing world.”
Krishnan pointed specifically to political uprisings around the world.
“That’s what they’re doing — holding power to account,” he said.
Ntibinyane Ntibinyane is an investigative journalist based in Botswana, Africa who is scheduled to speak at the conference on Sunday.
"For us in Africa, investigative journalism is almost everything,” he said. “We can hold guys in higher power to account and in Africa, it's quite needed."
One of the speakers, 26-year-old Natalie Sedletska, travelled from the Ukraine to discuss her role in a group that uncovered 25,000 documents dumped in a lake near Ukraine’s ex-president’s home.
“Everyone who is behind decisions like that, if they think it will stop investigative journalists from digging, they completely don’t get what it is we do,” said veteran CBC Adrienne Arsenault, who was also scheduled to speak at the conference.
Attendees said it was inspiring to be in the same space as so many of the world's top reporters.
"It's kind of like being a nerd at a Star Trek convention. It's just overwhelming to see Peter Mansbridge in the room with you," said Brandon-based reporter Ian Hitchen.
Even Arsenault said she was a little star-struck.
“[Berenstein] is a rock star. I’d love to have even a moment with him,” she said.
The conference runs until Sunday.