Journalists awarded first place for the Innovation award in Journalism by the US Embassy and INTEC
Ashley Ann Presinal and Nasha Cruz, two journalists from Listin Diario, received recognition in the category of digital investigative journalism. During a ceremony held at the Center for Digital Culture of the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (INDOTEL), the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo (INTEC) and the American Embassy in the Dominican Republic announced the winners of the first edition of the Journalistic Innovation Award. They were chosen as winners for their publications “Dominican Visas in Haiti: 3,700 million of pure discretion” and “Rennovación de Pasaportes: Una Mina de Dólares” (Passport renewals abroad: A mine of dollars). Presinal and Cruz detail the thriving consular industry in the Dominican diplomatic missions abroad and the Haitian consulates.
The Digital Research Award category winners each received a statuette and a metallic award worth 150,000 pesos. While Nasha Cruz is still a student of social communication at INTEC and works as a writer, Ashley Presinal has a degree in social communication and digital media from INTEC and is the SEO editor of the Listin Diario Digital Table. In an interview with Dominican Today, Ashley Ann admitted that for months she and her colleague had encountered obstacles, mainly from government institutions, threatening to throw overboard the work they set out to do. When they didn’t receive answers via phone or email, they had to resort to physically going to the offices on more than one occasion to get the answers they needed. According to Presinal, several institutions argued that because they did not have the requested information at the time, they had to insist on going to mediation before the law.
The idea arose at the end of 2020, and the beginning of 2021. The problem of the Dominican consulates in Haiti—the cloak of opacity that wrapped them (and still does)—was an “open secret,” as Dominicans popularly say. They had also received complaints from Dominicans in the diaspora about the high costs of apostilling documents and updating their papers, among other immigration processes. Most of the complaints came from Dominicans living in Europe and the United States. Ashley Ann stated that investigating she realized that both problems came from the same root: the violation of the Mirex provisions on the collection of fees and the “discretionary” handling of money of most of these consulates. The investigation took them a total of 15 months to complete.
“I learned to be patient, manage information better, and develop critical and creative thinking. We wanted to tell the story in such a way that people could understand and internalize it, it was a bit difficult because the story involved heavy data and big figures.” Ashley Ann stated.
Nasha Cruz and Ashley Ann Presinal feel honored to receive this award. “I feel happy and honored to have been recognized for that research. Together with my colleague Nasha Cruz, we invested a lot of time and effort in it. The satisfaction of having fulfilled our duty, added to the journalistic recognition, is something that has no comparison,” Ashley mentioned. When questioned about the decision to publish their findings, Ashley said she had not anticipated the positive reception from the general public. “A few days later, we did a space on Twitter and dozens of Dominican and Haitian citizens connected with us and confirmed the findings of our investigation. That moment was very big for me as a journalist.”
Moving forward, Ashley Ann will continue to explore her talent as a writer, discover interesting topics, and innovate her craft.
The government proclaims its transparency. However, in practice it is lacking where there should be free access to information and/or services. Dealing with consulates is a shot in the dark. Consuls are appointed, many cases they are political appointments, meaning they may have little or no experience with consular activities. They are figureheads of state. It is the long-time consular staff people who have the best knowledge of consular services to pass on to those seeking assistance. However, it is the consul general who dictates to the staff what the knowledge should or should not be, that in some matters may be contrary to regulation. It is what fudges up the consular process, sets a cloak over transparency. These two journalists are striving to remove the cloaks.