Development and philanthropic organisation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is giving investigative journalism in West Africa a major boost with a $5 million grant support which will go to six media development groups; one academic institution, and two newsrooms in Ghana and Nigeria.
This is by far the most robust support and recognition for investigative journalism as a mechanism for promoting accountability, transparency, and good governance so far in the country, and according to the West Africa Coordinator for the foundation, Kole Shettima, who announced the grants, the foundation hopes the grants will help in strengthening Nigerian-led anti-corruption efforts and reducing retail or “petty” corruption.
He said corruption, impunity, and lack of accountability have posed major governance challenges in the region and Nigeria in particular, with far-reaching impacts on the well-being of Nigerians and development in the country.
Mr. Shettima remarked that “The nine grants announced in early February seek to strengthen investigative and data-driven journalism in Nigeria and to reinforce the role played by independent media and citizens in revealing and documenting corruption.
“The grants will support a range of projects, including trainings for journalists on investigative field work and data-driven reporting, assistance for independent media organizations working to develop sustainable business models, and initiatives to monitor and report on Nigerian regulatory agencies in key sectors,” he added.
“Media and citizens are playing an increasingly active and important watchdog role in Nigeria,” said Mr. Shettima, giving sense to the statutory basis of media in the Nigerian constitution as a watchdog instrument for giving consequence to the deep values of democracy.
“With this support we hope to contribute to a culture of investigation and transparency, in which authorities are held accountable and independent voices are empowered to monitor, detect, and report on issues of corruption,” the foundation said.
The six media development organisations covered by the three-year grant are:
Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism [PTCIJ] To conduct investigations on financing, security, and terrorism; to create a fact checking website for journalists; and to build civic technology for citizens and journalists to collaboratively learn and produce multimedia reports related to corruption.
Daily Trust Foundation (Abuja): To strengthen the capacity of journalists, media professionals, and students to conduct high quality investigative and data-driven journalism.
International Centre for Investigative Reporting (Abuja): To train journalists on investigative journalism techniques and to support in-depth field investigations.
Reboot (Abuja): To train Nigerian journalism and media organizations on understanding and engaging audiences, developing sustainable business models, strengthening investigative and data-driven reporting, and collaborating with advocacy groups.
Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (Lagos): To support investigative journalism in Nigeria and to educate the public and other important audiences about issues related to corruption, with a focus on the electricity and education sectors.
Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (Lagos): To pilot an initiative that will monitor regulatory agencies in Nigeria using media and investigative journalism.
Bayero University, mass communication department in Kano is the only academic institution covered in the grant to support them enhance training, curriculum, teaching, and learning opportunities for the next generation of investigative journalists.
The two newsrooms, one in Ghana and another in Nigeria, which received support for their investigative journalism, are:
• Tiger Eye Social Foundation (Dzorwulu, Ghana): To strengthen investigative capacity of Nigerian media by training journalists in investigative techniques and supporting field investigations on corruption.
• Sahara Reporters (Abuja): To launch a Lagos-based civic media laboratory to engage citizens in public dialogue on corruption and other social issues.
The foundation said the “grants are intended to support [democratic development] …by building and strengthening a system of accountability journalism in the country.”