Monday, July 30, 2007

Honoring Africa's Best - The CNN/Multichoice African Journalist Awards 2007

Richard M. Kavuma, a 32-year old senior writer for Uganda’s The Weekly Observer is not a household name in the news business, but he should be. I first came into contact with Richard during the run-up to the 2007 G8 Summit at Heiligendamm, Germany. The London based Panos Institute sponsored a crew of 9 journalists and media professionals from the African continent for the AfricaVox 2007 project to cover this year’s G8 Summit and Richard Kavuma was among these professionals here in Germany. I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Richard in-person; we met via the comments section of his posts to the AfricaVox 2007 blog.

I had quite a bit of fun both welcoming all these fine journalists to the 2007 G8 Summit in Germany and to the rough & tumble world of the blogosphere and my first comment on the AfricaVox 2007 blog was a scorcher in response to Richard’s article about the June 1st frontpage spread on Afrika by Germany’s Bild Zeitung. I had already composed and published a scathing article about the Bild Zeitung Afrika Spezialausgabe before discovering Richard’s piece at AfricaVox.

Since then poor Sir Bob Geldorf and his sidekick Bono have been severely criticized online in numerous opinion editorials and blog posts, but my angle on the story was the overtly negative and stereotypical depiction of helpless, starving, suffering, and clueless Africans in one of Germany’s top selling newspapers (circulation in print over 1 million copies with revenues approximately at Euro 1 billion annually). Geldorf serving as ‘guest editor-in-chief for a day’ at BILD for this despicable characterization of Africa was just a secondary issue for me. Sir Bob should have known better and I’ll bet you he gets the message on his failures at BILD and other media stunts now. Africans can speak very well for themselves in the international media and elsewhere without Geldorf’s public profanity and antics, thank you very much.

Fast forward to July 23, 2007

Tucked away in the corner (Africa news section) of the new website was an article about the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the Year Awards. I try to keep track of these prestigious awards for professionalism in journalism and media on the African continent because it is a great source of information about Africa’s top news professionals and the award-winning stories they write and produce for print, TV and radio, online news, and photojournalism. This year’s winner of the African Journalist of the Year Award in two separate categories is none other than Richard M. Kavuma!

It’s a bit of surprise because as I stated earlier to the Panos-London staff I personally felt that the AfricaVox 2007 project presented some of the best news professionals in the business and that I was most grateful for being able to communicate with them via the AfricaVox 2007 blog. I had no idea that the Panos AfricaVox crew was that good (like Nr. 1 journalist in Africa good). That Richard Kavuma of Kampala’s The Weekly Observer won this year’s award was also a surprise for other media professionals in Africa as the newspaper where he works has been in publication since 2004. Richards winning entry for the top award was his 2006 8-part series on Uganda’s progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.

So without any further ado I want to extend my congratulations to Richard M. Kavuma (aka ‘Rimkav’) and the staff at Uganda’s The Weekly Observer for bringing home one of Africa’s most coveted professional journalism awards. This is the first time in the 12 years of the competition that the African Journalist of the Year Award has come to the country of Uganda. Yo Uganda, congratulations!

Something else that caught my attention re: the African Journalist of the Year Awards is that up to now it hasn’t received much play in the Africa sector of the blogosphere. Why not? Aren’t these people important sources of information and inspiration to aspiring CJ’s (citizen journalists) and blog authors out there? Have we become so ‘full of ourselves’ that we fail to recognize the hard work and excellent contributions to the profession from Africa’s finest news professionals? I certainly hope not. I couldn’t even begin to produce posts for Jewels in the Jungle without the leads and inspiration of professional journalists who cover the continent of Africa and publish their work to the Internet. And I mean all international journalists and news professionals covering the Africa beat regardless of race, creed, color or nationality.

The African Journalist of the Year Awards is in its 12th season, founded in 1995 by Edward Boateng (Turner Broadcasting Systems) and the late Amin Mohammed. The competition is open to African professional journalists and freelancers who work on the African continent for African media organizations that focus their content primarily on an African audience. This year’s competition attracted 1679 entries from over 40 countries in Africa. CNN has more info about the awards at the official website including the two CNN African Journalist Award press releases below:

Ugandan Richard M. Kavuma named CNN Multichoice African Journalist of the Year

CNN Multichoice African Journalist Award finalists announced

CNN’s Inside Africa aired a short report on the award ceremonies in last weekend’s program. It would be a great idea if Femi Oke, Isha Sesay, and the CNN producers would produce a weeklong TV/Internet special on news reporting and journalism in Africa, highlighting the work and actual reports by some of the journalists and other media professionals honored at the African Journalist of the Year Awards. But that, that would be asking too much of the execs at this renowned international news network, wouldn’t it?

Note: Wait a minute, there’s the problem with these awards right there.
Number One: only “professional journalists and freelancers” who work for a “professional” media organization can participate
Number Two: the content must be primarily focused toward an African audience.

Well, that counts Jewels in the Jungle out and the work of thousands of even better online citizen journalists and bloggers worldwide. Africa’s bloggers are to be found everywhere on the planet and they write for a global audience. Maybe we could talk CNN into sponsoring an African Global Citizen Journalist of the Year Award 2008?

Which brings me to the next subject re: CNN International and the CNN Africa news crew: Where is Jeff? Where is Jeff Koinange? Did he quit or was he fired, is he sick, are the Niger Delta rebels holding him for ransom? With all due respect for CNN Inside Africa program host Femi Oke and newcomer correspondent Isha Sesay, Jeff is the guy who has been the Master of Ceremonies at the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist Awards and this year he wasn’t anywhere to be seen, replaced by his CNN colleague Jonathan Mann instead. What’s up with Jeff? What!? No, you’re kidding? Damn.

While I’m on the subject of awards in journalism and news, Reuters Africa deserves a nod of congratulations for winning this year’s Diageo African Business Reporting Awards for the Best Website category. This is especially interesting for those of us who support the Global Voices Online project at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society as Reuters News is one of the principal sponsors of the project. Here is the lowdown on Reuters winning the Diageo Business Reporting Awards at Global Voices Online and the news article about the award on the Reuters Africa website.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Richard M. Kavuma upon receipt of his award at the African Journalist of the Year ceremonies in Cape Town, South Africa last week:

“In accepting this award, I dedicate it to my colleagues at The Weekly Observer in Uganda, and to my fellow journalists in Africa. This is in recognition of journalism that strives to put people at the forefront. With this award, I give my renewed dedication to act as a voice for the voiceless.”

Right On, Richard. If you’ve got a strong voice for the people of Africa, use it.

Related articles and online resources

The Weekly Observer (Uganda)
Observer journalist best in Africa by Carolyne Nakazibwe, 07/26/07
Mand thirsty for safe water by Richard M. Kavuma, 05/10/06

Punch (Nigeria)
How Kavuma won the African Journalist of the Year Award by Waheed Bakare

IPP (East Africa)
CNN/Multichoice Journalist Award winners announced by Lydia Shekighenda (This Day, Nigeria)
Ugandan Kavuma named 2007 CNN Multichoice African journalist, 07/24/07

Ugandan journalist scoops award, 07/24/07
CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the Year official website

Panos Institute – London
Africavox 2007: African voices at the G8 Summit
Africavox 2007 profiles: Richard M. Kavuma

AfricaVox 2007 G8 Summit articles by Richard Kavuma:
‘Green’ fuel must not destroy Africa’s forests, 06/08/07
Protesting for/against whom? 06/04/07
Why Geldorf’s image of a rotting Africa is OK by me, 06/01/07

Jewels in the Jungle
Saving the Africa agenda at the G8 Summit 2007 in Heiligendamm, 06/01/07

Africa Media blog
African voices from the G-8 Summit 2007, 06/12/07

What do Africans think of international news coverage of Africa? 07/26/07
African journalists: more than victims, 08/01/07

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Melissa said...

I saw something that indicated Jeff Koinange was no longer with CNN -- but not why. A number of folks in the Nigerian blogosphere were claiming to have gotten him fired but I couldn't find any evidence.

Black River Eagle said...

I haven't read the full story about Jeff Koinange's leaving CNN International yet but I will have a closer look at that in the near future. If he hasn't committed some crime against this woman from Switzerland such as rape or mental harrassment I cannot see why CNN would want him to go or that he would want to quit on his own. It all sounds a bit flakey to me and a case of poor judgement and behavior on Jeff's part in which case he could have simply apologized to all concerned and continued to go about his reporting.

Either way you look at it Jeff's absence from CNN International is a great loss for the network and for the international viewers. I wish him luck in his next steps down the winding rocky road of professional journalism and will be on the lookout for his return to the public sphere.