The year 2020 was tough, no doubts. Like other organisations, the doors of our office were shut for 5 months to curb the spread of the coronavirus. All the same, we intensified our efforts to serve humanity, promoting investigative reporting and supporting journalists, and invariably, their media houses, to do more nuanced reports on the pandemic, while also creating platforms for discussion on salient media and national issues.
In April, the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) with support from the MacArthur Foundation commenced the COVID-19 Reality Check project as a response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The project is examining government interventions and promises in relation to the realities on the ground in terms of social welfare, water and sanitation, food availability and accessibility, education, electric power supply, and more. Five sets of journalists comprising 50 journalists from 24 media organisations were trained and mentored on the ongoing project with 118 stories enabled.
A coalition of civil societies, including the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), Enough is Enough (EiENigeria), International Press Centre (IPC), the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) carried out a survey between April 27 and May 1 to assess the support available to journalists for their safety in reporting the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. Findings from the survey showed the need for media owners to widen the scope of their support to reporters covering the pandemic to include insurance cover and provision of personal protective equipment to journalists. A fallout of the survey was the distribution of face masks and sanitisers to 19 media houses in Lagos and Abuja by the WSCIJ.
For three months, beginning from May to July, the WSCIJ team monitored 14 news publications in Nigeria on the quality and quantum of their reportage of four issues – education, electricity, girls and women, and health (including the reportage of COVID-19 issues). The publications included Leadership Newspaper, ThisDay Newspaper, Guardian Newspaper, Independent Newspaper, Tribune Newspaper, Vanguard Newspaper, Punch Newspaper, Daily Trust, The Nation Newspaper, New Telegraph, BusinessDay, Daily Post, Premium Times and Sahara Reporters.
In July, the annual Wole Soyinka Centre Media Lecture was held with the theme – Data, media and national development. The usefulness of data for effective policymaking, meaningful resource allocation and efficient public service delivery was the highlight of the lecture that held virtually on Monday, 13 July 2020. Speakers at the event to mark Professor Wole Soyinka’s 86th birthday pushed for Nigeria to have reliable, accurate and relevant data towards national development.
Two photo books on the challenges with basic education and electricity in Nigeria were released by the centre in July. The photo books titled, State of Schools and Living in Darkness, contain some of the most compelling pictures from reports published under the REMOP project during the first three years of WSCIJ’s Regulators Monitoring Programme (REMOP), also implemented with support from the MacArthur Foundation. Lack of infrastructure, poor environment and sanitation, congestion and ‘working children’ are some themes covered in the ‘State of Schools’. Its electricity version, ‘Living in Darkness’, covers safety hazards and infrastructural decay in the electricity sector among other issues. The photo books reiterate the need for an integrated development approach by all stakeholders in tackling the duo of challenges given the interconnection between electricity and basic education.
Also in July, two editions of ‘Time-out with Journalists’, WSCIJ’s off-work aimed at providing journalists with the atmosphere to relax, reflect and interact with themselves about critical issues in the journalism profession and the society at large, held. The two editions provided a platform to share experiences, opportunities and survival tips with and among journalists amid job disruptions and other challenges during COVID-19. 50 journalists were present.
The WSCIJ with support from its partner, Free Press Unlimited, carried out a survey between August and September to capture the successes, challenges and impact of the Report Women! Female Reporters Leadership Programme, toward improving the programme in future as more collaborators get on board. Findings from the survey revealed that the project, which has accrued over 1,200 direct and indirect beneficiaries, has achieved its goal exceptionally, having equipped fellows with knowledge and capability for leadership with evidence of increased visibility for the fellows as leaders in their newsrooms as well as changed news organisations’ perception about female leadership and the representation of the voice of women as leaders in news reports among other successes.
In October, the WSCIJ played an active part at the 2020 edition of the African Investigative Journalism Conference, with its Executive Director/CEO, Motunrayo Alaka, and some past winners of its award programme, including Fisayo Soyombo, Adekunle Yusuf and Sharon Ijasan, taking up speaking roles at the largest gathering of investigative journalists on the continent. In fulfillment of its commitment towards facilitating international exposure for Soyinka Laureates the centre also sponsored its Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting (WSAIR) laureates providing access to a full conference package (all sessions).
Still in October, the WSCIJ commissioned three stories as a fallout of the N2 million grant awarded the 2019 runner-up of the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism for the television category, Sharon Ijasan, to develop a compendium on child labour and its underlying problems in Nigeria.
December was particularly a busy time at the centre. The WSCIJ held a virtual meeting on on Friday, 4 December with reporters and mentors for a COVID-19 media and access to information project under its Free to Share initiative. The project implemented with support from Free Press Unlimited provides support to journalists and media houses in Nigeria to inform, educate, and debunk misinformation to members of the public about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on livelihoods through the production of quality public interest content.
Also, in December, the fifteenth edition of the centre’s annual flagship programme, the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting, took place, beginning with a two-day In-depth Media Conference themed, ‘Masked not silenced’, where it was asserted that the Nigerian media cannot be silenced, nor its independence diminished by oppression from government, economic challenges, or other trials.
In spite of the pandemic, we trained 267 journalists from 85 media houses through our various programmes, engaged 31 resource persons, and enabled 121 stories through the COVID-19 Reality Check, Child Labour and Free to Share projects. We also rewarded 8 investigative reporters in the year.
While we thank you for allowing us contribute our bit to health of the media in Nigeria in 2020, here is to greater reach and impact in 2021.