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If your 'culprit' is very powerful and dangerous, you may want to avoid a personal confrontation and opt for sending questions to his or her office instead. It may be better if you do not enter their territory, or make your face too familiar to their allies. This type of interview will not be as good, but you will remain alive to write the story.

Find out, before you embark on such stories, what support or protection your publication or organisation can offer you. If you are a freelancer, ensure that you set up some support structures of your own.

Asking a powerful person or entity for comment on a grave issue can lead to legal, as well as physical, threats. Legal threats may be designed to make your editor drop the story – and he or she may do so. But if your facts are sound, try convincing your editor that these individuals often do not launch the defamation suits they threaten. First, they often already have bad reputations which will weaken their case in court (this applies, for instance, to companies involved in the arms trade) and second, a court case could bring out, in a privileged context where you are free to reprint it, all the evidence they are trying to conceal. If you are dealing with individuals who operate in intimidation, prosecution or with any other kind of threats, look to these organisations for help: ‘Committee to Protect Journalists’ or ‘Reporters Without Borders’. Another overview about organisations helping journalists in danger can be accessed from the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN).


After having evaluated the selected sources and considered the threat to meet with the person, it is time to conduct the actual interview. The next chapter will discuss how to plan interview questions, how to behave during the interview and elaborate on crucial rules for success.