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Lab analysis

Journalists use lab analysis to confirm that violations have taken place that cannot be proven by other methods. Lab analysis constitutes very solid evidence, especially if it is produced by a neutral, specialized, recognized party. Although it is costly and time-consuming and requires concentration and precision, it can be exactly what an investigation needs to make it watertight.
Al Jazeera used lab analysis in its famous investigation into the death of Yasser Arafat, in which analysis conducted by a Swiss laboratory uncovered high levels of polonium a radioactive poison in the former PLO leader’s belongings. Arafat’s remains were subsequently disinterred and samples taken for testing in France, Russia and Switzerland. Lab testing is used to investigate deaths, attempted murders and sexual assaults. It can also be used when investigating food safety, water quality, agricultural practices and consumer protection issues, when you need to establish the extent to which roads, power grids or children’s toys (for example) meet industry standards.
Lab testing requires careful and professional study. In its aforementioned investigation into Arafat’s death, the investigation team were helped by the family of the deceased, who had held onto several of his belongings and were able to supply hair and urine samples from his clothes. If journalists had not been able to convince Arafat’s widow Soha to participate, the investigation could not have gone ahead. A journalist who wants to produce an investigation drawing on lab analysis will need to familiarize themselves with the nature of the analysis required and the types of measurements that it is likely to produce. It is never a bad idea to consult experts on these sorts of questions.
Lab analysis also requires a precise and solid methodology in order to rule out any doubt in the results and their credibility. You should always stick to highly respected labs that enjoy technical and scientific accreditation. Lab analysis results alone do not constitute an investigation. You will also need to establish the background and the context, as well as working out what they mean from a scientific perspective and what effect they have on the victims.
You will also need to work out how the results of the analysis are connected to the victims and to the event. In Al Jazeera’s investigation we had to begin with Arafat’s DNA, making sure that it matched with the hair we found in his hat and the urine samples we took from his underwear. We then had to look for poisonous chemicals, and then biological and ultimately radioactive material in order to get results. This was a long and costly process, but it was worth it. Investigations looking into the safety of food, medicine, water etc require mechanical study.
This begins with taking samples correctly. You might want to seek the help of a technical expert in taking the samples. If so, you can record the process on video. You should also record the payment as well as the process of taking samples to the laboratory and handing them over. You will also need to explain the results to the public simply and straightforwardly, emphasizing why the results are important for them. The investigation may require testing multiple samples of the same kind over an extended period of time in order to demonstrate that contamination, for example, is not an isolated case but part of a systematic and ongoing problem.
An example of this kind of investigation is provided by journalists at the Jordanian magazine 7iber, who discovered that Jordanians were unwittingly buying genetically modified wheat from traders who were circumventing the law

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