Two PREMIUM TIMES journalists who were named overall winners of this year’s edition of the Global Shining Light Award said they received the top investigative journalism prize with mixed feelings.
Speaking to journalists in Johannesburg shortly after they were named winners, Musikilu Mojeed (editor-in-Chief) and Emmanuel Mayah (associate editor) said the joy of winning the award was tempered by the failure of the Nigerian government to get justice for victims of the massacre they reported about.
Messrs Mayah and Mojeed, were named winners of the prestigious journalism prize among 12 finalists selected from 211 submissions across 67 countries.
The winning entry, a two-part story, which investigated the extrajudicial killings of IPOB protesters exposed how extra-judicial killings were perpetrated and covered up by state security agencies.
Mr. Mojeed, who commissioned and edited the reports, said he hoped the publicity around the award would finally get Nigerian authorities to undertake a thorough investigation of the IPOB killings.
“We receive this award with mixed feelings because while it is good to be honoured for the work we did, we are sad that the families of those killed are yet to get justice,” Mr. Mojeed, winner of numerous journalism awards, said.
“Those who killed them are yet to be brought to book, they are walking free. Some families are still looking for their loved ones as we speak.”
“It’s exciting to be rewarded but it would have been more fulfilling if the Nigerian government had done the right thing. They claimed they were investigating the matter. Amnesty International corroborated our findings on the killings. So we are wondering why justice has not been done.
“Why have the law enforcement agents who did the killings yet to be identified and charged to court?”
Mr. Mayah, also a multiple award-winning journalist, said, “I’m not too sure anymore about how I feel (about the award) because it’s not so much about somebody able to produce a story. I’m beginning to really define what is a good story, I think it is one that is able to produce change.
“There were many denials. We countered those denials by our reporting, but so far no one has been charged.
“Don’t forget that before this particular issue that we investigated, we woke up one morning and we heard about the Ezzu River incident. Over 40 dead bodies, nobody gave explanation who these people were? The police said they did not know, the military said they did not know. It cannot happen in another country and journalists were unable to unearth it.
“So when the opportunity came to investigate the IPOB killings, we said we must get to the bottom of this matter. It started from Aba and later on to Onitsha and other places. So it is good because of the international attention it got, to the point that you found human rights investigators coming to the southeast to take a look based on the story.
“I hope the award brings more attention to the story and that people also begin to ask more questions that possibly will help resolve some of the issues. Really, I would like to see that a thorough investigation is carried out because even the army is changing the narrative. Those that were in a mass grave, the army said they were Fulani herdsmen. I hope that this will help in changing the narrative.
“People were killed and massacred and there was a petition that was sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and then a coalition of human rights community in Nigeria sent a counter-petition to the ICC saying they should discountenance the petition sent by ICC because they were secessionists.
“But the question should be, were people killed and massacred? So if that so-called human rights group say that a horrifying case of mass killing should be ignored because the victims were secessionists, it’s a dangerous trend.”
The same report had last week won the Norbert Zongo Investigative Journalism award (first prize in the print category and overall prize) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.