By a HUMNEWS Correspondent in Johannesburg
(HN, June 26, 2011) -- Major media markets such as Kenya, Uganda and South Africa walked away with the bulk of the awards last night at the African Journalism Awards in Johannesburg last night.
The top prize winner was Fatuma Noor of The Star of Kenya, who was recognized for her hard work on a three-part series on the militant Islamic group in Somalia, al-Shabab. It was chosen from among 1407 entries from 42 nations across the African continent.
The series tells the story of the young men who give up their freedom abroad to return and fight for the ‘Al-Shabaab’ in one of the world’s most dangerous places on earth – Somalia.
Fatuma Noor was one of the 27 finalists at the Awards ceremony on Saturday evening and was a winner in the category ‘General News Award (Print).’
The Awards, which rotate location each year in tribute to their pan-African credentials, were held at a Gala ceremony hosted by CNN and MultiChoice. Established in 1995 in Ghana, the awards were co-founded by the legendary African photo-journalist "Mo" Amin.
Last night, Kenya alone received four awards, Uganda three and host country South Africa three. One sponsor of the event told HUMNEWS that the domination of larger media markets in the awards line-up is a trend that has held almost since the event was first hosted. He added that smaller countries may not have the capability to submit entries or that some works are produced in countries that have governments hostile to enterprise journalism.
Chair of the judging panel, journalist and media consultant Joel Kibazo said: “The judges were impressed with the high quality of entries to the competition this year, and this intrepid young journalist has shown great courage and determination in going the extra mile to tell this fascinating story. Fatuma Noor’s three-part series on the Al-Shabaab provides a detailed and personalised portrait of the young men who leave their comfortable western lives to join one of the world’s most ruthless militant groups in Somalia.”
The evening also recognised Mahamud Abdi Jama as this year’s recipient of the Free Press Africa Award, for his work in Somalia. His situation was noted by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) in New York. He wrote a critical article about the government there and was jailed for just over a month and released when pressure was put on the government of Somalia.
Media freedom is still very tenuous in many markets on the African continent. Just last week, the CPJ reported that Ethiopian columnist Reeyot Alemu has been detained and held incommunicado. She is a regular contributor to the independent weekly, Feteh.
Even in host country South Africa, journalists tell HUMNEWS they fear a sweeping crackdown if a proposed draconian bill on secrecy passes the legislature.
(The Bill is a revised version of a 2008 piece of proposed legislation that was withdrawn after protests that it would give state bodies too much leeway to quash information. It establishes serious hurdles for the media and civil society to obtain information about official corruption mismanagement and government service delivery issues. It gives government officials wide powers to prevent disclosure in the interests of “national security” which is broadly defined to cover a vast array of information).
No mention of the legislation - initated by the administration of President Jacob Zuma - was made last night.
Other winners at the awards ceremony were:
ARTS & CULTURE AWARD
Kofi Akpabli, Freelance for DailyGraphic, Ghana.
Title: ‘What is right with Akpeteshie?’
DIGITAL JOURNALISM AWARD
The Dispatch Online Team on behalf of ‘The Daily Dispatch’ in South Africa.
Title: ‘Failed Futures’
ECONOMICS & BUSINESS AWARD
Sylvia Chebet and Kimani Githae, Citizen TV, Kenya.
Title: ‘An uphill task’
Lamia Hassan, Business Today Egypt, Egypt.
Title: ‘Washed up’
FRANCOPHONE GENERAL NEWS AWARD: PRINT
Rabin Bhujun, L'Express Dimanche, Mauritius.
Title: ‘Le vrai pouvoir des castes’
FRANCOPHONE GENERAL NEWS AWARD: TV / (RADIO
Claudine Efoa Atohoun, ORTB, Benin.
Title: ‘Le barrage de Nagbéto: Outil de développement ou source de nuisance’
FREE PRESS AFRICA AWARD
Mahamud Abdi Jama,Waaheen Media, Somalia.
HIV/AIDS REPORTING IN AFRICA AWARD
Beryl Ooro, K24 TV, Kenya.
Title: ‘HIV infection among senior citizens in Kenya’
MOHAMED AMIN PHOTOGRAPHIC AWARD
Norman Katende, freelance for The New Vision, Uganda.
Title: ‘When death strikes’
PORTUGUESE LANGUAGE GENERAL NEWS AWARD
Selma Marivate, TV Miramar, Mozambique.
Title: ‘O Movimento Rastafari em Mocambique’
RADIO GENERAL NEWS AWARD
Melini Moses, SABC, South Africa.
Title: ‘Hillbrow – Den of Iniquity’
Kamau Mutunga, DN2 Magazine, Daily Nation, Kenya.
Title: ‘Soccer and Superstition (Animal body parts and snake blood on the pitch)’
TELEVISION – GENERAL NEWS – FEATURE/CURRENT AFFAIRS AWARD
Lindile Mpanza, e.tv, South Africa.
Title: ‘Silence of the innocents’
TELEVISION – GENERAL NEWS – NEWS BULLETIN AWARD
Farouk Kayondo, UBC, Uganda.
Title: ‘Watching in the hood’
Benon Herbert Oluka, DailyMonitor, Uganda.
Title: ‘Why Ugandans would rather watch goat races than visit their national parks or heritage sites’