The 2010 FAIR African Investigative Journalism Awards have been extended to reporters from Nigeria, Ghana and Namibia. The prestigious Editors’ Courage Award went to a Kenyan editor who had published a story in spite of pressure on him, his publication and his reporter, not to do so.
Nigerian Emmanuel Mayah travelled thirty-seven days undercover through the Sahara desert as a trafficked migrant. During this time, he unearthed, recorded and photographed extreme human rights violations committed by traffickers against the trafficked persons, most of whom were women. He unearthed the existence of slave labour in salt mines along the way. The slaves, who had paid for ‘passage to Europe’, had simply been abandoned there without any means to contact relatives or return home. Mayah, who also discovered and reported on complicity from within government -and even anti-human-trafficking structures- , received the first prize in the FAIR Awards at a special ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 2 November. Mayah had also won the prize in 2009.
Anas Aremeyaw Anas, from Ghana, scooped his prize -the runner -up- for an undercover report of a very different type. Anas had reported bad management, food theft, drugs trafficking and drugs sales from within Accra’s psychiatric hospital. In order to do the documentary, Anas had checked himself in as a psychiatric patient and had even gone as far as swallowing some psychotropic drugs when doctors prescribed these to the ‘patient’. At the presentation of his work at the African Investigative Journalism Conference, -which was the venue for the Awards ceremony- held this week in Johannesburg, Anas told an amazed audience how he had been in touch with doctors outside the mental institution who had ‘put him right’ after the psychiatric medication had had detrimental effects on his ability to function. The resulting documentary went on to push the Ghanaian government to investigate the hospital and make sweeping management changes.
A special mention went to Namibian John Grobler, who had worked for more than a year on an investigation into the looting of tourism resources by some within the country’s governing elite. The result from painstakingly searching for and going through heaps of company and government documents, was a story and a diagram that clearly showed how once profitable resorts had fallen into the hands of individuals who had only obtained them to enrich themselves, to the detriment of the country’s tourism income.
“We have to praise paper chasing together with the undercover work”, Awards presenter and FAIR Advisory Council member Nixon Kariithi said as he handed over the Awards.
“Together they are a powerful tool for improvements in society.” The Editors’ Courage Award went to Kenyan Standard editor John Bundotich, who had withstood pressure from government and intelligence services who had warned him not to publish an investigation into election fraud by the governing party. Bundotich however had defended the story, researched and written by reporter Kipchumba Some, and had published it nevertheless.
The winner: Emmanuel Mayah, The Sun, Nigeria — “From ‘fraud school’ to abandonment in the salt mines: human traffic through the Sahara desert”
Runner up: Anas Aremeyaw Anas, The Crusading Guide/Ghana TV, Ghana — “Abuse, theft and drug trade in Accra’s main psychiatric hospital: an undercover story that caused Ghana’s Health Ministry to act”
Editors Courage Award: Kipchumba Some, The Standard — “Standard editor John Bundotich withstood pressure and threats to publish Kipchumba Some’s exposure of election rigging, popular rage and murder”
– 2 November 2010