Mr Muhammed Akinyemi, a Nigerian, emerged as the Best West African Journalist of The Year at the 2023 West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA) held in Accra.
He was also adjudged Best Reporter in the Environmental Reporting category together with four Ghanaian journalists and another Nigerian, who were among the finalists at the ceremony organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA).
Mr Emmanuel Kwasi Debrah (Multimedia Group Limited) won the Telecom and ICT Reporting category while Gbenga Salau (Guardian Newspaper, Nigeria) topped the Business Reporting contest.
Mr Emmanuel Ayamga (Pulse Ghana), Komla Adom (Tv3 Ghana) and Francisca Enchill (Multimedia Group Limited) were crowned in the Migration, Human Rights and Investigative Reporting categories respectively.
Mr Akinyemi of HumAngle Media (Nigeria) took home a total of $2,500 while awardees in the remaining four categories took home $500 each.
WAMECA honours outstanding works of journalism in West Africa. The 2023 editio
n was themed: ‘Media and Democracy in Africa,’ where practitioners and stakeholders discussed pertinent issues in the sector.
The awards, this year, received 825 entries from 15 countries, which were narrowed down to 100 out of which 17 finalists emerged winners, Mr Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director, MFWA, explained in his address.
He said despite the challenges on the economic and media front, many journalists continued to exhibit ‘courage and excellence’ in executing their functions and, therefore, deserved commendation.
Mr Braimah, however, encouraged practising journalists to do more work related to anti-corruption and health as there were no winners in those categories.
All the entries, he noted, went through a rigorous selection process by renowned African journalists, who settled on the six winners in each of the categories.
He commended various stakeholders and partners, who continued to invest in democracy and Journalism in Ghana as well as activities of MFWA.
Ms Emily Fertik, Public Affairs
Counsellor, US Embassy, Ghana, commended the awardees and asked journalists in Ghana and the United States to remain professional as both nations prepared for the polls next year.
‘…both of our media will be tested for transparency, balance, neutrality, credibility and professionalism, and both of our countries must pass those tests to remain the strong democracies that we are,’ she said.
Pledging continuous support for journalists in the country, she said the US Embassy would train 100 journalists in Ghana next year on election reporting and continue to provide training on fact-checking for journalists in rural areas.
She stated that fact-checking and responsible Journalism were the ‘strongest weapons’ against misinformation and disinformation, which ‘remain a threat to democracy and freedom of the press’.
Mr Femi Falana, West Africa’s foremost Media Defense Lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, also urged journalists to interrogate the economic policies of governments and ask the pertinent questions in
the minds of ordinary citizens.
He encouraged African journalists to use the media to change ‘the narrative of oppression and underdevelopment’ on the continent.
Ms Fatimatu Abubakar, Deputy Minister for Information, highlighted the indispensable role of the media in democracies and praised MFWA for promoting media excellence throughout the years.
Hamadou Tidiane Sy, Founder and editor of Ouestaf News, Senegal and Member of the Grand Jury for the awards, commended the finalists, indicating that recommendations and observations by the jury would be sent to MFWA to guide applicants in the following year.