Presentation by LAMNTANG* JESSE KONANG, Rapporteur of the 2015 British High Commission Sponsored Investigative Journalism Competition on the occasion of the Prize Award Ceremony on 31st March 2016 in Yaounde under the Auspices of the British Commissioner to Cameroon H.E. BRIAN OLLEY.
All Administrative and Diplomatic Protocol Respected, Fellow Media Practitioners, Ladies and Gentlemen. I like, first of all, to convey to you heartfelt greetings from the Management of AFRICAphonie-Cameroon, especially those of the Executive Director, Mwalimu George Ngwane, who originally loved to be among us today but could not because he is away in London as a Commonwealth Professional Fellow tenable at the Minority Rights Group International, London. He has therefore mandated me to make this presentation, on behalf of AFRICAphonie-Cameroon, at the instance of this ceremony, which crowns the 2015 edition of the National Investigative Journalism Competition.
Ladies and Gentlemen, AFRICAphonie-Cameroon heartily thanks British High Commission, Cameroon, for granting her the opportunity of implementing her Cameroon Investigative Journalism Project to pep up investigative journalism, which is yet to take firm root in Africa, in general, and Cameroon, in particular. We pray for the partnership to grow even stronger and larger, for the sake of good bilateral relations between Britain and Cameroon.
It is thanks to such media gurus like Chief Zachee Nzohngandembou, Mme. Marion Obam Mahel, Messrs. Bernard Eko, Tehwui Lambiv, Chi Sebastien, Theologien Maffira, who offered their expertise in determining the rightful winners of the competition and under the official presence of a member of the National Communication Council, Mr. Charly Ndi Chia, the Regional Delegate of Communication for South West, Ms. Muma Rosette, and the University of Buea Head of Department for Journalism and Mass Communication, Dr. Julius Che Tita, that we are where we are this evening. AFRICAphonie sincerely thanks all of them for carrying out their respective tasks without fear or favour.
We also thank all the competitors without whose entries the competition would have turned out to be a non-event. We congratulate the declared winners and encourage those who have not hit the mark not to throw up their hands in despair. There is a good chance they will make it subsequently.
Without the different media organs, the competition would not have enjoyed any great publicity. We greatly appreciate the collaboration of the different publishers, station managers and editors for carrying our relevant press releases on their media platforms.
Distinguished guests, Dear media professionals. The press is the bridge between the government and the governed, exposing unethical, immoral and illegal behaviour by government officials, politicians, institutions and private individuals. Sometimes, journalists must go beyond their watchdog roles and, for the sake of public interest or the public’s right to know, act as attackdogs to metaphorically fish out, from their hideouts, unscrupulous public servants, institutions and private individuals who circumvent morality and the law for their selfish interests. To achieve this requires in-depth investigation, including tenacious research, interviews with credible sources, and ethical treatment of information and publication of the investigation results.
Investigative journalism is an extremely powerful tool in bringing sanity into the government and society. We see the vitality of this assertion in the recent investigative work of Ghanaian-born, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, which resulted in the suspension and dismissal, on a massive and an unprecedented scale, of judges, magistrates and court clerks in Ghana. In 2014, thanks to thorough investigations by The Post newspaper, a longstanding land-grabbing mafia in Fako Division, South West Region, Cameroon, was uncovered. It made the indigenous population heave a sigh of relief when the unscrupulous persons were named and shamed, the procedure to obtain land surrendered by CDC revised, and the corrupt land officials relieved of their duties.
Investigative journalism is practised in Cameroon at a crawling speed because of the absence of a freedom of information law in the country and no provisions for the security of investigative journalists who face numerous death threats at each successful accomplishment of their task. It is incumbent on the Government to continue enhancing the vital role of the media in the country’s democratic process by enacting a distinct law on access to public information and records in Cameroon.
It is within the framework of promoting investigative journalism that British High Commission, Cameroon, conceived the Investigative Journalism project. She sponsored a seminar that AFRICAphonie implemented as a prelude to the 2015 investigative journalism competition whose entries were marked on 12th November, 2015 in Buea, South West Region. Before the British High Commission releases the results this evening, let me explain how the competition was organized.
After due understanding with the sponsor of the competition, AFRICAphonie-Cameroon issued a press release on the 15th of September, 2015, calling for media entries. All – repeat all - categories of the media (newspaper, radio, TV, social media) were used to disseminate the information. The entry criteria were clearly spelt out in the press release. The competition was open to all journalists of the print, radio, TV and Online media who either worked as freelance or were employed by a Cameroon-based media outfit. The entries included work published in English or French between 1st June and 30th November 2015. Works submitted for the Award were not to be returned to their authors after the marking. The different prizes were also made public. A total of 30 candidates (25 male and 5 female) passed the eligibility test and their entries were passed to the six-member jury for marking. The scoring was done on a total of 300, based on the candidates’ mastery of language (English or French), scope and novelty, relevance to/impact on the audience, originality, professional quality and investigative depth. To keep the candidates’ identities secret from the judges, the scripts and sound recordings were each given specific codes. Guided by a unique marking guide, the judges worked independently and had their marks collated in a plenary session. After the proclamation of the results today, we are quits with the Investigative Journalism Project for 2015. However, to give new meaning to subsequent competitions, we have some recommendations to make as follows:
- That for more participation and equitable evaluation, the award prizes be categorized separately according to the different spheres of the media – print (newspaper), radio, television, Online with the first three prizes in each category.
- That Investigative Journalism workshops rotate from region to region, as in 2014 it was Centre, 2015 it was South West.
- That future competitions be organized to culminate in the yearly celebrations of World Press Freedom Day every 3rd of May.
- That the possibility of producing a draft text and then law on the Protection of Investigative Journalists as it obtains in Ghana be looked into as a project between AFRICAphonie and British High Commission, Cameroon.
- That the lone female video entry be encouraged with a consolation prize during the final award of this year’s edition.
- That Special Jury prizes be encouraged as it has been done this year.
- That consolation prizes (in cash and kind) be introduced as an encouragement for massive participation in the future.
- That print candidates be encouraged to use relevant photographs in their investigative reports.
That an Appeal be made for additional financial support especially with the increase in categories, to other Diplomatic services, Ministry of Communication and National Communication Council.
Long Live Investigative Journalism.
Long Live AFRICAphonie-British High Commission Cooperation.Long Live Cameroon-UK Relations.
God bless and protect Investigative Journalists.
Thank you very much for your kind attention!
Jesse Konang, Rapporteur, 2015 Investigative Journalism Competition, Representing the Executive Director of the implementing Civil Society Organization, AFRICAphonie, Cameroon