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10.02.2021 Journalism FIJ Founder ‘Fisayo Soyombo Wins Fetisov Journalism Award

Published 10th Feb, 2021

By Gabriel Ogunjobi

‘Fisayo Soyombo, an investigative journalist and Founder/Editor of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), has won a Fetisov Journalism Award, described by organisers as “the most lucrative journalism award in history”.

Soyombo won the award for his undercover investigation on Nigeria’s criminal justice system funded by TheCable and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

Back in 2019 as a freelance journalist, Soyombo spent two weeks in detention — five days in a Police cell and eight as an inmate in Ikoyi Prison — to track corruption in Nigeria’s criminal justice system, beginning from the moment of arrest by the Police to the point of release from prison.

To experience the workings of the system in its raw state, he adopted the pseudonym Ojo Olajumoke and feigned an offence for which he was arrested and detained in police custody, arraigned in court and eventually remanded in prison.

Shortlisted for the Outstanding Investigative Reporting category, Soyombo emerged second prize winner, ahead of ‘Sucked Dry: Huge Swaths of Land Acquired by Foreign Investors in Africa’s Nile River Basin Export Profits, Displace Communities’ — a collaborative investigation by 13 journalists mainly from Uganda. They are Fredrick Mugira, Annika McGinnis, Geoffrey Kamadi, Nada Arafat, Saker El Nour, Ayele Addis Ambelu, Paul Jimbo, David Monodanga, Tricia Govindasamy, Chrispine Odhiambo, Sakina Salem, Emma Kisa and Jacopo Ottaviani.

Indian journalist Rohini Mohan won the first prize for his investigation, ‘Worse Than a Death Sentence”: Inside India’s Sham Trials That Could Strip Millions of Citizenship’.

Another Nigerian, Philip Obaji, won the third prize in the Outstanding Contribution to Peace category for his story, ‘The Child Refugees ‘Sold’ Through Facebook’. The first prize in that category was won by British journalist Richard Kent, Nick Donovan and Mohamed Aboelgheit, and third by Turkish journalist Mizar Kemal.

In an announcement on Wednesday, the organisers said the winners were selected from over 280 entries from 77 countries worldwide who entered the worldwide competition — almost twice as much as received for the 2019 edition of the award.

“The winners were selected in a two-stage judging process,” read the statement.

“The competitive entries were assessed against a set of criteria such as accuracy of information, independence, impartiality and fairness, humanity, transparency, promotion of ethical principles, positive impact on the political, economic or social situation in a particular area, country or globally.’

The 35 best articles were selected for the shortlist by the FJA Expert Council that consists of 22 media experts from around the world. The initial shortlist comprised 13 collaborative journalistic projects and 22 stories produced by individual journalists.

The latest honour for Soyombo, a winner of numerous journalism awards over the years, comes only two months after he won the Local Reporter category of the 2020 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism.

It was the third time in six years, the others being 2014 and 2016, that Soyombo had been short-listed for the Kurt Schork awards, which recognise excellence in courageous reporting of conflict, corruption, human rights transgressions and other related issues.

In 2020 alone, Soyombo either won or was short-listed for the Fetisov Journalism Awards (Outstanding Investigation category), the West Africa Media Excellence Award (Investigative Reporting category), the WJP Anthony Lewis Prize for Exceptional Rule of Law Journalism, the One World Media Awards (International Journalist of the Year category) and the People Journalism Prize for Africa (PJPA).

A three-time winner of the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting, Soyombo is a former Editor of TheCable, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) and SaharaReporters.

He founded FIJ in late 2020 as an independent, not-for-profit organisation that combats injustice, holds power to account and speaks for the voiceless, seeking to uncover the truth by bypassing officialdom and neutralizing propaganda.

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Published 10th Feb, 2021

By Gabriel Ogunjobi

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