Some 13 young journalists have been certified after completing a five-month long training with the Media Foundation for West Africa’s Next Generation Journalism Fellowship (NGIJ 2022).
Under the NGIJ programme, the young journalists who were selected from an initial list of about 200 applicants, were taken through training in investigative journalism, fact-checking, the Right to Information (RTI) law and how to draft RTI request, mobile journalism and illicit financial flows.
Two of the applicants came from Sierra Leone, with one coming from Liberia, while 10 others came from Ghana.
Chairperson for the occasion, Dr Audrey Gadzekpo, lauded the organisers of the training programme for the initiative, noting that journalism and democratic practice face an existential crisis.
This crisis on one hand is between journalism and social media as well as the crisis of trust between journalists and persons who distrust journalists.
Added to this milieu is the sociopolitical and economic crisis which many parts of the world are currently experiencing.
In view of this, Dr Gadzekpo said this crisis demands “the skills of investigative journalism, thus people that can ask the right questions, illuminate the issues for us and hold those in authority to account for their actions or inactions.”
She reminded the participants that the impact of investigative journalism may not always be measurable, but “this doesn’t lessen its ability to exact accountability from those who wield power in society and whose behaviours so profoundly affect the lives of millions of citizens.”
She warned them of the inherent dangers in travelling their chosen road, indicating that investigative journalists naturally make a lot of enemies in society due to the nature of their work.
Executive Director of MFWA, Sulemana Braimah, in his address said that although democracy in the sub-region was currently on the back foot, with governments becoming more abusive and intolerant, while coups seem to be making a comeback, there is an expectation that the media will be at the forefront of the democratic campaign.
He therefore called on media practitioners to “break the culture of silence and secrecy and replace that with a culture of openness, transparency and accountability.
He however acknowledged that the media is faced with a number of challenges that are hampering their ability to effectively play the roles that they are expected to play.
These include the challenge of corruption within the media, with practitioners compromised by the very people they are supposed to be watching.
According to Braimah, “our media are subdued by political, economic and cognitive capture at different levels. These challenges have restricted the capacity of the media to serve as lovers of good governance and democratic consolidation in our region.
He concluded that a crisis in journalism does not just affect journalism.
Press Attaché at the United States Embassy, Kevin Brosnahan, reminded the young journalism trainees that they had the tools to call out corruption, which he said, “steals money from the people and misappropriates money from them.”
He said tritely, “when corruption thrives, investments take flight.”
Brosnahan warned the trainees that the job can be a dangerous one, and it was thus imperative for them to double check their sources and seek advice in the course of their work.
He ended by reminding them that “the job is not worth your life.”
Some of the award winners from this cohort include, Thelma Dede Amedeku, who was adjudged the Best Fact-checker, Victor Jones from Sierra Leone, who was voted the best story writer, and Philip Teye Agbove, who emerged as the Most Promising Investigative Journalist.