19 August 2020 LESSONS Labour rights

Fighting Forced Labour through journalism

A close up of a woman's face with emotive eyes

The goal of the initiative was to increase the global coverage of the otherwise underreported scourge of modern slavery and trafficking by setting up a unique reporting team to document forced labour in its many forms, with an additional focus on the apparel industry and related issues such as sourcing and supply chains.


The key objective of the initiative was to provide training and ongoing mentorship to 36 mid-career Indian journalists over three years to help them develop their expertise in reporting on modern slavery under the framework of a much bigger programme: Fighting Forced Labour and Human Trafficking through Journalism and Media Development level


Investment: EUR 789,000 (Laudes Foundation, formerly C&A Foundation)

Duration: 3 years (2017-19)

Geographic region: India


The training of journalists’ achieved its intended goals and built the capacity and competency of journalists to report on human trafficking and forced labour

The initiative succeeded in providing training to 36 mid-career journalists in the three Indian metropolitan cities of Chennai, New Delhi and Mumbai. The training was successful in increasing awareness and building journalists’ investigative and analytical skills on the issues of human trafficking and forced labour

The training was highly effective in building journalists’ knowledge of problems, story preparation and planning, ethics and editorial expectations 

Only a third of the journalists had published media stories (not an intended programme outcome) over the three years; which is higher than the industry average of 10%. However, the programme did not track the publication of stories

The results of the training on networking and mentorship were mixed

Networking and meeting with peers from other media organisations fostered new relationships and networks that journalists could tap through this training

The initiative missed the opportunity to fully implement the mentorship model that would have supported development of their professional skills in a customised way due to human resource constraints and time commitments

Thomson Reuters Foundation’s contribution on modern slavery in 2015-17 was prolific and one of the most influential sources of news in the global conversation

The output of stories by the TRF increased by 45% in 2016 and 21% further in 2017. 494 articles the Foundation produced in 2017 on the issue of Modern Slavery was the highest number produced compared to the top 10 most influential publications identified for the study

Further, the foundation’s contribution to the annual global slavery coverage was 1.5% in 2015 which increased to 4.7% of the total coverage in 2017 and decreased to 2.6% in 2017 due to an increase in the global volume of coverage in 2017

Geographically, the initiative reported an increased focus on India from early 2016 onwards and thematically, forced labour was the dominant theme

Efforts made by the Thomson Reuters Foundation were most successful with regard to the contribution towards pushing forward a wider and comprehensive deliberation around the issue of Modern Slavery in India. Approximately 17% of the stories published by the daily newspaper Times of India in 2017 were provided by the Foundation (up from 0 in 2015).

In 2017, the Foundation increased its focus on Modern Slavery issues in the United Kingdom while maintaining focus on developing countries, specifically South Asia 

The contribution of the Foundation to the discussion on Forced Labour and Sexual Slavery had doubled during the period in terms of volume of articles.

What did we learn?

C&A Foundation

Content produced by major publications is considered to be influential and is a bellwether for high quality and credibility

Single, separate stories that are curated into a publication have the potential to showcase the work of the initiative and of trends on the nature of stories focussing on modern slavery published over time.

For Partners & Others

It is important to manage the expectations of participants regarding the contents of the course and its exclusions from the outset

The course enrolled small numbers that helped maintain high standards and for exposure of participants to critical learning for nuanced reporting of complex and sensitive issues 

The training structure struck a good balance of theory and practice: Linking training to real life examples within communities, exposing journalists to experts, allowing them to interact with and learn from fellow journalists covering similar issues 

Systematic followup of the trained journalists and their published outputs helps in tracking progress and results