By Juliana Kabba
Three young journalists were awarded prizes worth over 1000 euros in the first edition of the Inclusive and Anti-Conflict Journalism Award in Sierra Leone.
The annual journalism competition, organized by the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) Sierra Leone and the Minority Rights Group International (MRGI), recognizes excellence in journalism that is focused on promoting reporting on minority issues and conflict prevention.
The award is part of a European Union funded initiative: the “Engaging Media and Minorities to Act for Peacebuilding (EMMAP)” project, which seeks to raise public awareness of the interconnections between conflict, migration, climate change and minority exclusion.
The award ceremony was held on Tuesday, October 31, in the conference hall of the 50-50 Group at Tower Hill in Freetown.
Patricia Sia Gevao, a reporter with the Freetown daily Awoko Newspaper, emerged winner of the top prize for her publication on “Ensuring access to approved Primary health care in Freetown slums’. She was awarded 500 euros, plus a plaque and a certificate.
Cecilia Alice Sesay of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation emerged second, for her report on life at a witches camp in Ghana. She received 300 euros, a plaque and a certificate; while Mohamed Sahr of A-Z Newspaper went home with 200 euros, a plaque and a certificate for his third-place story on the need for proper care for children of amputee and war wounded victims.
The three awardees were among five shortlisted finalists, out of a total of nine journalists who submitted entries.
All three winning journalists are part of over a100 journalists across three West African countries – Sierra Leone, Ghana and Senegal – who taking part in a training on reporting on minorities as part of the EMMAP project.
Dr Victor Massaquoi, Chairman of the MRCG Board, who is also Chairman of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), hailed the media development institution and its partners for the initiative, noting that it has the potential to reinforce one of the key mandates of both the IMC and the umbrella Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), which is to develop the capacity of media practitioners in the country.
Dr Massaquoi was impressed by the quality of the contents submitted by the awardees, which he said suggested hope for journalism in the country.
“One of the central functions of SLAJ as well as the IMC is to ensure that we develop media practitioners in this country, and if you take a look at the IMC Act, it is very clear with respect to how journalists are supposed to be encouraged, to be developed in the profession,” he said, hoping that the next edition will nonetheless witness an improvement both in terms of quality and quantity of entries.
Eastina Taylor, President of the Women in the Media Sierra Leone, chaired the judging panel. She revealed that a total of 16 entries from nine journalists were evaluated, out of many more entries submitted, comprising articles and audiovisual reports.
According to Ms Taylor, the entries were adjudged using five criteria: Originality of story and issues addressed, uniqueness of topics explored and dept to which the authors delved into the relevant issues. Then the investigative effort put into the work. Thirdly, they looked at the impact of the story. Fourthly, the authentic representation of genuine voices and voices of lived experiences. And finally, a strong call to action.
Ms Gevao expressed joy for her achievement, thanking MRCG and its partners for the opportunity. She dedicated her award to “countless individuals” working to amplifying the voices of minority groups.
“This award is not a celebration of one person, it is a celebration of countless individuals who put their efforts into amplifying the voices of minority groups,” she said.