PREMIUM TIMES, Nigeria’s leading investigative newspaper, shone like a million stars on Thursday night after one of its reporters was named winner of the prestigious, continent-wide African Fact-Checking Award.
To win the coveted prize, Ben Ezeamalu, PREMIUM TIMES’ Metro Editor, beat two other finalists – Philip de Wet of the Mail & Guardian in South Africa and Pieter-Louis Myburgh, from the Rapport/City Press (members of the Media24 news group in South Africa).
Messrs Wet and Myburgh were named first and second runners up respectively.
“I’m grateful to God for this award and I want to dedicate it to the fantastic team at PREMIUM TIMES for the encouragement and support,” Mr. Ezeamalu, who also heads the newspaper’s Lagos operations, said while receiving the award.
It was a night of glitz and glamour at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Johannesburg with media leaders across Africa as well as Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, the President of Mauritius, in attendance.
Musikilu Mojeed, PREMIUM TIMES’ Managing Editor, said the award is a testament of the hard work and professionalism at the newspaper.
“It’s an added boost to our resolve to always hold government officials, public figures, and corporations accountable,” Mr. Mojeed said.
“Rewards like this show that we are not working in vain and it will no doubt motivate our staff who toil day and night to enhance the people’s right to know. It shows that the world is noticing the modest effort we are making to the stability of our community.”
Eric Chinje, Chief Executive Officer of African Media Initiative, said it was a difficult task arriving at the final shortlist.
Peter Cunliff-Jones, the co-founder of Africa Check, said fact-checking has become an important part of journalism.
“The winning entry met all the criteria of fact-checking,” Mr. Cunliff-Jones said.
“It even challenged claims by a respected lawyer and a Nobel laureate.”
Judges had in September shortlisted seven candidates out of 51 entries from more than 15 African countries for the award.
Mr. Ezeamalu won the award with his report that debunked claims made about legislation on the age of sexual consent in Nigeria.
In June, Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, said the Nigeria’s Sexual Offences Law encouraged the defilement of minors by setting the age of sexual consent at 11 years, sparking outrage across the country.
But in reality, the law stipulates a life imprisonment term for anyone who has sex with someone under 18 years.
The entries were judged by a six-member jury of African and European journalists.
The African Fact-Checking Awards were launched in 2014 by Africa Fact Check and its partner, the AFP Foundation, the non-profit media training arm of the AFP news agency.
“They were created to honour the best investigative fact-checking carried out by African journalists each year,” the organizers said.
The inaugural edition of the awards, in 2014, were won by a team from Ghana, with runners up from Kenya and Zambia.
Thursday’s award came one month after Ibanga Isine, PREMIUM TIMES’ Regional Editor, was named winner of the News Impact category at the CNN Multichoice African Journalist of the Year Awards in Kenya.
Shortly before the announcement of the winner of the Africa Fact-Checking award; the Zimeo Excellence in Media Awards held in which The Punch newspaper’s Dayo Oketola and Bayo Akinloye as well as The Tell Magazine’s Anthony Akaeze emerged winners in their various categories.
Mr. Oketola’s story ‘Power failure: Nigerians burn N17.5tn fuel on generators in five years’ won the Energy category while Mr. Akinloye’s ‘Bittersweet banking: World of Nigeria’s mobile traditional bankers’ won the Business and Finance category.
Mr. Akaeze’s ‘Lagos’ ticking time bomb’ won in the Infrastructure category.