By Sola Ogundipe, Lusaka, Zambia
Lusaka (Zambia) — In acknowledgment of its established resilience and resoluteness to freedom, the Nigerian Press received accolades, weekend, at the final of the 2012 CNN Multichoice African Journalist Awards, where Nigeria won the Free Press Africa Award category just as the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, restated commitment of the Nigerian media to report the truth even in the face of the most daunting odds.
The Free Press Africa Award was introduced in 1999 to recognise journalistic courage and integrity in enhancing the cause of media freedom.
At the prestigious annual media event, the 17th in series, held in Lusaka, Zambia, two of Nigerian journalists who lost their lives in the course of duty were specially recognised for their contribution to advancing the course of professional journalism in the country.
The journalists, Zakariyu Isa, a cameraman with the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, Maiduguri, who was shot dead in front of his home in Maiduguri in October 2011, and Eneche Akogwu, a news reporter at Channels Television, Lagos, who was also shot dead while covering the Kano bomb blast in January 2012, were post-humously honoured at the ceremony .
Adefaye decries assault on free press
President of the NGE, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, who received the coveted award from chairperson of the 2012 Judging Panel, Ferial Haffajee, decried the current assault on free press in Nigeria but assured that the special recognition would serve as encouragement for the media to do even more.
In his speech entitled “No Terror can Subsume Our Press,” Adefaye who described as a mistake, efforts by insurgents in the country to determine the content of the media through threats, affirmed that the Nigerian Press was too sophisticated to be so intimidated.
He said: “Our story has always been that when the press is threatened, it comes out stronger. Our press which survived the most brutal of military dictatorships and wears the battle scar as a badge of honour, now complemented by a fast growing social media will surely survive this current assault on free press and write the story thereafter.
“I want to thank CNN and Multichoice sharing of our pains. Thank you for the empathy. Thank you particularly for the symbolic support for those left behind by Eneche and Zakariya.
“This solidarity can only push our press to be more courageous, daring and professional. On behalf of everyone, I want to make you a promise: the Nigerian press will continue to report the truth and speak truth to power. It is the minimum that we can do to the memory of the courageous two who have fallen, in active service.”
Highpoint of the awards
A highpoint of the awards ceremony was the emergence of the duo of Tom Mboya and Evanson Nyaga of Kenya’s Citizen Television as winners of the top prize of the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Award. Their entry, a documentary, entitled “The African Tribe in India” was selected from 1,799 entries submitted from 42 nations across Africa. Mboya and Evanson had earlier clinched the Television Features Award. A total of 34 finalists were shortlisted to vie for the 16 available categories in the finals.
Four Nigerian journalists were nominated in four of the award categories, but only Ahaoma Kanu of the National Daily newspaper won in the Tourism Award category with his story entitled “Badagry: A Walk Through The Slave Route.”
In a post awards commentary, Chief Judge of the awards, Ferial Haffajee, expressed satisfaction at the impressive quality of entries received this year.
According to him, “the quality of work has improved tremendously in all areas. Many of the entrants displayed very good ability of combining research with great story telling ability. But I wish to urge journalists to begin preparing entries for the awards as soon as possible.”
The CNN African Journalist of the Year competition was established in August 1995 to encourage, promote and recognise excellence in African journalism and also to help African journalists gain recognition for their hardwork and commitment.