Hala Nigeria Project rewards journalists in inaugural story contest

Hala Nigeria Project, a collaboration between the International Centre for Journalists, ICFJ, and Nigerian partner organisations, on Friday rewarded staff and citizen journalists who were winners in its inaugural story contest.

The project, which means ‘Speak Out, Nigeria,’ used new digital tool to spur citizen engagement, promote data-driven reporting to take advantage of Nigeria’s new open data movement, organise public events around key health issues, and engage citizen journalists to expand coverage into neglected regions.

The story contest aimed to reward compelling stories that used traditional or digital tools to engage citizens on health topics that matter to them.

“This contest has the potential to have a major impact on people’s health,” said Declan Okpaleke, a Knight Fellow and key member of the Hala Nigeria team. “The whole idea is to ensure that Nigeria is not left behind as the world innovate its media. When journalists report what directly touches the people and give them a chance to speak out, they provide an important service.”

Over 130 entries were received for the contest, according to the organisers, out of which 15 finalists were chosen.

“(The finalists) received assistance in developing their ideas and using new tools to engage the public,” Mr. Okpaleke, who is also the head of African Health Journalists Association, said. “Completed projects were then submitted to an international panel of respected media leaders, health experts and technologists, who chose the winners.”

In the individual category, Vivian Irikefe of the Television Continental, TVC, took the top prize with her story on the Ebola Virus Disease, while Segun Adeoye of The Punch Newspapers was first runner up.

Vanessa Offiong, Alex Abutu, and Seun Akioye of the Weekend Trust, Daily Trust, and The Nation respectively were joint second runner up.

For the institutional category, for citizen journalists, the Malaria and Self-Medication group comprising of Noble Bere, Bunmi Owolabi, Miriam Efom, Nornubari Kote, Esther Ndeesor, and Innocent Okoh took the prize.

Joyce Barnathan, ICFJ President, said the Hala Nigeria project would provide a global road map for engaging citizens on health issues.

“We believe it will ultimately lead to a better informed and healthier society,” Ms. Barnathan said.

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