This is the second of our monthly news updates for partners, members, friends and supporters in the FAIR network. During May 2012, Cyanide and uranium poisoning of populations by mining operations were the target of FAIR members’ investigations in Ghana and the DR Congo. Benjamin Tetteh, for Ghana’s Joy FM, found that cyanide in local water streams (emanating from Canadian Golden Star Resources) had been making people in the Dumase region sick since 2006. In the Congo, Eric Mwamba found that birth defects and deaths have skyrocketed in areas where companies with close links to the Kabila administration buy up minerals – including uranium- from artisanal miners. FAIR has just received money to allocate grants for environmental investigations in Africa, and we expect the new stories to make an impact with relevant authorities in those countries.
A recent article “Brave journalism on the continent” by Gill Moodie supports the view that in-depth investigative work in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda is focused on real social issues and related problems. Read the full story in the Mail & Guardian.
Here is the rest of what FAIR has been up to:
* Cameroon: Chief Bisong Etahoben, for Weekly Post in Cameroon, is investigating the breakdown of the monetary economy in rural areas, where money has become a thing of the past and people now trade fish for eggs and oil for flour.
* Nigeria: Idris Akinbajo and Premium Times keeps following the money: The president, his associates and some ministers have been named in a monumental money laundering scandal, one of the most elaborate in Nigeria’s history. Read the full story here. Aniefiok Udonquak, for Business Times, is following Red Crossrelief materials that were sent to a refugee camp but never arrived.
* DRC: Eric Mwamba is continuing his series on Kabila’s corrupt reign with support from the Pascal Decroos.
* Benin: Christophe Assogba, for Nouvelle Gazette, is looking into the syndicates that organize grave-robbing, and sometimes murder, of persons for the purpose of the trade in human organs.
* Ghana: Whilst Benjamin Tetteh continues to map out the rural areas of his country and exposing very bad stuff such as cyanide pollution by mines he keeps running into government agencies. Recently he also slammed the expropriation of a lagoon area, where local populations used to fish and harvest salt, by military officials. Find the story here.
* Theresa Chapulapula (Malawi) won both ‘journalist of the year’ and ‘best investigative journalist’ for her story on the Malawi housing
scandal. Read about it here
* Christophe Assogba of Nouvelle Gazette has co-founded a new science reporters association in Benin: www.ajcsb.org
* Anas Aremeyaw and his team scoop up One World Media Awards in London.
* Kassim Mohammed wins 2012 Knight International Journalism Award.
* Environmental grants: FAIR is proud to launch a set of five investigative journalism grants in the field of ecological justice and environment. The Centre for Civil Society in South Africa donated the grants, of US 500,- each, to FAIR’s grants project. The resulting stories are meant to be of help to academic research as well. Applications will open on Monday 4 June 2012, after an official announcement and call is made across the FAIR network.
* ‘Cocoa Fair Trade’: The West African Transnational Investigation into the unfair aspects of ‘fair trade’ has met with support from International Media Support in Denmark in the context of its Programme for African Investigative Reporting (PAIR). This TI will have the special character of an Arizona project, since initiator Selay Kouassi was threatened after exposing the connections between ‘fair trade’ institutions and the cocoa mafia in Ivory Coast.
* Support for Ahmad Salkida, Nigeria: After writing a lot about the Nigerian terrorist movement Boko Haram, Ahmad Salkida experienced so much pressure (‘from both sides, Boko Haram as well as the authorities’) that he asked for help to move away from the high-density slum area near Abuja, where he lived and where it would be easy to make him ‘disappear’. FAIR assisted Salkida with his request, and, with help from the Rory Peck Trust, the Pen Foundation, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists and reporters without Borders, he, his wife and four children have managed to temporarily relocate to a more regular neighbourhood. FAIR would like to thank the institutions that helped.
* Regional conference in East Africa: FAIR is negotiating with partners who support investigative journalism in the East African region to jointly hold a regional investigative journalism conference in September.
* Continental War on Terror TI: FAIR Members both in West and East Africa have come out in support of a Transnational Investigation into the War on Terror. Are Al Shabaab, Boko Haram and ‘Al Qaeda’ in the Sahel being combated effectively? Anyone who is interested in partnering with, or supporting, this TI, please make yourselves known after an official announcement and call is made across the FAIR network.
* Peer mentoring: Stories assisted by FAIR peer mentoring are in the pipeline in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Uganda, Ghana and Malawi. More in the next newsletter!
African IJ Grants Fund
FAIR has initiated dialogue with HIVOS; FEI (France); Oxfam Novib; Kenya Media Programme; Tanzania Media Fund; and Programme for African Investigative Reporting (PAIR). These institutions have indicated willingness to cooperate with FAIR in the establishment of a continental grants fund, that would cover as yet uncovered countries as well as enable cross border and transnational investigations.
* ABRAJI: FAIR’s peer mentor Charles Rukuni will present a paper at the Abraji (Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo) conference on 14 July 2012. His topic “Unveiling football in Africa” is in recognition of FAIR’s transnational investigation on the soccer world cup in 2010 – Killing Soccer in Africa. Brazil is hosting the next world cup in 2014. Abraji would like us to share the methods used during investigation, problems encountered, whether there has been any follow up, and what FAIR generally thinks about sports news. Read more on the ABRAJI website.
* Open Forum: FAIR director Abdullah Vawda attended a few sessions of the pan-African ‘Open Forum’ in Cape Town, South Africa during 21-23 May 2012. Hosted by our partners in the Open Society Foundations, the programme focused on justice, democracy and transparency activities in Africa. The event provided an opportunity for FAIR to network and to meet with current and prospective partners.
Our auditors’ findings of discrepancies between actual fees paid and number of members, are not a matter of policy, but of flexibility in practice. Members face difficulties in paying. This is mainly due to high bank transfer fees. FAIR sometimes ‘understands’ members’ difficulties and allows the member to stay on as a member even if he/she has not paid. The policy, however, is clear. Members should pay USD50 annually; aspiring members/ students pay USD25. Persistent, unexplained non-compliance, results in de-registration as a member and withdrawal of benefits after 3 reminders.
Visit the FAIR website for relevant news updates, training opportunities and current investigations by African journalists. We have just passed 10,000 page views on our website since January 2012, and hope to increase the number of visits by publishing a series of ‘exclusive’ FAIR investigations in the coming weeks.