Kenyan reporter wins top journalist awardBy: JEAN SUTHERLAND
A YOUNG Kenyan journalist, John-Allan Namu, scooped the top prize at this year’s CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2009 Awards Ceremony. Namu (24) won for his stories ‘In the Shadow of the Mungiki’ (with James Mogaka) and ‘Inside Story: Scars and Sufurias’.
He was one of the 25 finalists honoured at a glittering awards ceremony held at the International Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa, on Saturday night.
Namu, who works as a reporter for Kenya Television Network, scored a first in the history of the competition by winning in two categories – the Television News Award and Television Features Award.
“I feel immensely honoured. I never thought this would happen. This goes to show that anyone from any walk of life can stand among giants,” said Namu.
The young Kenyan, who said he was lost for words, then broke into singing the Kenyan national anthem. Fellow Kenyans in the audience proudly rose to join him.
Commenting on Namu’s work, chairperson of the judging panel, Azubuike Ishiekwene, Executive Director of Punch Nigeria Limited, said: “The reporter went beyond the surface, stripped the stereo-type and combined sound, images and research to bring new insight and meaning to the story. It’s an excellent example of the kind of journalism that the continent badly needs.”
Earlier in the evening Namu said journalists want to report on positive developments in their countries but that politicians generate too much news that reflects negatively on their countries.
“Let’s build Kenya,” he said of his own country.
His piece ‘In the Shadow of the Mungiki’, looked behind the ‘criminal gang’ label and showed how the group has mutated and how politicians were manipulating young people trying to find a meaning to their lives.
In ‘Inside Story: Scars and Sufurias’, Namu again went behind the headlines. He showed that while politicians might have joined together and formed a coalition government, the deep wounds of Kenya’s worst violence in memory have not healed.
This year’s finalists hailed from 12 countries – from Egypt in the North to South Africa, Kenya in the East to Nigeria in the West. Overall there were 1 665 entries from 38 countries.
Tony Maddox, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of CNN International, said the African Journalist of the Year Awards had been a response to African journalists wanting to encourage more qualitative reporting by Africans on African issues.
Nicaise Kibel’bel Oka of Les Coulisses of the Democratic Republic of the Congo received this year’s Free Press Africa Award on behalf of journalists in the Eastern DRC, whom he represents.
Tribute was paid to three of their number who have lost their lives in recent years – Pascal Kabungulu, Serge Maheshe and Didace Namujimbo.
An award-winning entry that will resonate in Namibia was an item on the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale done by Ernesto Bartolomeu of Televisao Publica de Angola. It won the Portuguese Language General News Award.
The documentary was produced to mark the 20th anniversary of the battle and included a range of interviews with some of the key players in the process, which ultimately helped change the political landscape in southern Africa.
Overall, the finalists provided a rich kaleidoscope of work – on street art in the form of displays on trucks, buses and taxis in Nigeria; an article on the business aspects of Islam; insight on a community in Kenya grappling with political and environmental neglect; alleged corruption involving the Mauritius Port Authority; the impact on communities and the environment of unplanned prospecting in a village in Burkina Faso; quacks who feed off the HIV-AIDS pandemic; the relevance of traditional medicine in South Africa; a photo essay on the brutality of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa; a look at the game of football, most particularly the English Premier League, and how it is producing entrepreneurs; and the story of a man travelling in Uganda to his village.