ExxonMobil and Aceh

Human rights at the judicial crossroads

A rice farmer in front of the ExxonMobil facility in Lhoksukon, Aceh. Photo by Emily JohnsonA rice farmer in front of the ExxonMobil facility in Lhoksukon, Aceh. Photo by Emily Johnson
Project Word Story Releases

Dallas Morning News

Free Speech Radio News

Mother Jones

Project Word
The story on John Doe v. ExxonMobil for the Dallas Morning News, which published on September 30, 2012, after almost a year in development, is just one version of collaborative nonprofit journalism at work. A day later, Monday, October 1, our companion radio piece went out to more than 80 US stations in the US, from KSUA in Fairbanks AK to WMNF in Tampa FL, and to other stations throughout North America, Southeast Asia, and Australia. Next came our October 5 release of an expanded magazine piece in Mother Jones.

This reporting would not have been possible without Project Word. Project Word serves the public with rigorous, independent, nonprofit journalism, helping editors and producers develop important stories and writers. We focus on the most difficult stories. We help diverse reporters write those stories for outlets like the Dallas Morning News. That in turn helps the outlets inform deserving audiences. You can play a part by donating to Project Word.
In this case, Project Word stepped in because a complex, underreported story raised a fundamental public-interest question: Are corporations liable for aiding and abetting atrocities worldwide? On Monday, October 1st, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. Like ExxonMobil, Shell has argued that only individuals—and not corporations—are liable for human rights violations.
As it deliberates in the coming months, the US Supreme Court will be at a crossroads. Its 2010 Citizen United ruling affirmed that corporations are persons for the purpose of their rights; will it now rule that corporations are not persons for the purpose of liabilities?
A ruling, expected as early as December, could in turn determine whether lawsuits like the one against ExxonMobil, brought by Acehnese villagers in Indonesia, can continue in US federal court. That is why Project Word chose to carefully report the ExxonMobil case and the stakes involved—for the company, the U.S. judiciary, and plaintiffs worldwide.

We could not have done this without dedicated supporters. Special thanks go to the Fund for Investigative Journalism for a grant to reporter Ian T. Shearn, to the Mailman Foundation for a grant to Project Word, and to Project Word's array of dedicated individual donors—all of whom rallied to make this reporting possible.

In addition to supplying newspaper, magazine, and radio versions of the story, we have updated our own website with Emily Johnson's visually rich multimedia piece from Aceh. Project Word will be following up in coming weeks with sidebars, related reporting, and links related to the ExxonMobil and Supreme Court cases. With additional support we can continue covering the beat of corporate accountability.

Nonprofit journalism can ensure that the media still produces the kind of reporting that is vital for a democracy. The newsroom of the future is supported by foundation grants and individual donations. Please consider donating to Project Word and follow us on Twitter below.

Fri, 09/28/2012 - 2:02pm