IRP Fellowships for Religion Reporting Opens for Entries

John Schidlovsky Director, International Reporting Project
John Schidlovsky
Director, International Reporting Project

The International Reporting Project (IRP) is accepting applications from experienced professional journalists to report on global religion issues for its 2017 fellowship programme.

Possible topics the fellows could pitch include conflict and peace; environment and sustainability; political economy and development; health and education; gender, race and sexuality; law and human rights; social movements; migration; and humanitarianism.

Freelance journalists are encouraged to apply but should note their projected outlets for publication as part of their pitch. The fellowships are intended for experienced professional journalists who have a record of outstanding achievement in reporting for influential media outlets, as this is not intended for students or for recent graduates without professional reporting experience.

IRP considers and encourages stories in a variety of media, including print, online, radio, television, photography, social media and video.

Interested applicants must fill out an application form in which they should write an essay of at least 1,000 words describing the stories they would pursue during the fellowship. Applicants should note their expected output (e.g. longform, short articles, radio or video documentary, photo essays, etc.). In order to be considered, all application essays must be submitted in English.

All of the fellows’ stories will be republished on the IRP website and co-owned by the fellow (or his/her distribution partners, depending on arrangements) and the IRP. In addition, the work produced as a result of the trip may be posted on the social media channels of the IRP funders. These fellowships are supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

For information on qualification, application and other requirements, please click https://internationalreportingproject.org/stories/view/apply-today-to-report-on-global-religion-issues

Women Photograph Calls for Nominations for Mentorship Programme

IMG_3035Women Photograph has launched its 2017 Mentorship Programme and seeks for nominations of female, female-identifying, and no binary photographers with less than five years of professional work experience who might be interested in long-term support.

The mentorship program which will pair industry leaders with 22 budding photojournalists over the course of a year will be mentored by editors from National Geographic, NPR, The New York Times, The Guardian; and photographers who are the recipients of the Pulitzer Prize, Guggenheim Fellowships, and World Press Photo awards.

Nominations close on July 15, 2017

For further information please visit https://www.womenphotograph.com/mentorship

ICFJ, News Corp Media Call for Applications from Africa for Fellowship

Johanna Carrillo Senior Program Director. International Center for Journalists
Johanna Carrillo
Senior Program Director. International Center for Journalists

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and News Corp are inviting journalists from Africa to apply for the News Corp Media Fellowship for African journalists.

News Corp, working with ICFJ, will take two journalists from any country in Africa to London to spend a month honing their journalistic skills at The Times and at The Wall Street Journal London bureau. During the fellowship, participants will have the opportunity to get a 360-degree view of both newsrooms.

During the programme, selected fellows will work alongside colleagues, experiencing how the newsrooms operate and the digital transformations affecting journalism. They will also have the opportunity to meet key journalists, media experts and technologists.

The Fellowship is open to English-speaking African journalists, videographers, newsroom editors, bloggers and journalists from all areas of expertise and any country in Africa.

All travel and fellowship expenses will be covered by the programme.

During tJohanna Carrillohe fellowship the selected fellows will have the opportunity to learn how the top London news outlets are navigating the transformations impacting journalism.

The deadline for submission of application is July 27, 2017.

For more information and application, please click https://www.icfj.org/our-work/news-corp-media-fellowship-african-journalists

MRA Names NNPC Recipient of ‘FOI Hall of Shame’ Award

NNPC Towers
NNPC Towers

Lagos, Monday, 10 July 2017: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today named the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as the latest inductee into its Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame for the corporation’s “persistent and unjustifiable violation of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act over the last six years.’

MRA said the NNPC was chosen for the dubious honour as the latest inductee in the FOI Hall of Shame because despite the huge resources at its disposal which would have enabled it to put in place the proper measures and structures for the effective implementation of the FOI Act, it has chosen to violate the provisions of the Act in every way possible.

In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, said: “It really should not be a surprise to anyone that the NNPC has become a cesspool of corruption over the years, having opted for a corporate policy of lack of transparency while resisting all attempts to hold it accountable to both the people of Nigeria and political authorities.”

According to MRA, “In the six years since the enactment of the FOI Act, the NNPC has not submitted any annual report to the Attorney-General of the Federation as required by Section 29(1) of the Act; it has persistently failed to comply with its proactive disclosure obligations under Section 2(3) and (4) of the Act; and has repeatedly refused to disclose information to requesters, opting instead to pay millions of naira in public funds to lawyers to implement its corporate strategy of  lack of transparency and accountability.”

MRA accused the NNPC of not only violating the provisions of the FOI Act, but also disregarding with impunity all the directives contained in the Guidelines for the Implementation of the FOI Act, issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation.

It called on the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the National Assembly to “take urgent measures to check this unacceptable level of impunity” on the part of the NNPC, saying they have the primary responsibility for ensuring compliance with the FOI Act by all public institutions.

Mr. Ojo said:  “It is a matter of serious concern to us that no official or institution of government seems able to call the NNPC to order or to hold it accountable despite numerous  reports and audits attesting to the most egregious violations of the provisions of various laws, including the FOI Act, by the corporation.  What we see instead is the inexplicable waste of public funds by the NNPC to retain the most expensive lawyers to help it resist any request for information, even of the most mundane type.”

According to him, “it is difficult to understand how it is possible that even in the midst of a blistering war against corruption and despite the various audit reports which have detailed the NNPC’s sharp business practices, violation of regulations, illegal deductions of funds belonging to the Government, failure to account for several billions of naira that should have gone into the federation account and over-deducted funds in subsidy claims, which it has not been able to account for, not a single person in the NNPC has been punished or charged with any offence.”

MRA launched the “FOI Hall of Shame” on July 3 to focus attention on public officials and institutions undermining the effectiveness of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 through the actions, decisions or utterances.

AFEX Calls for Immediate End to Impunity for Crimes against Journalists in Africa

AFEX LogoThe African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), a network of African freedom of expression groups, has expressed serious concerns about the increased incidents of attacks against journalists, media practitioners and free expression advocates on the continent and called upon governments in the region to step up efforts to safeguard free speech online and offline.

Members of AFEX lamented the deteriorating freedom of expression situation in Africa at the network’s 5th Annual General Meeting which was held in Montreal, Canada, on June 16, 2017, on the sidelines of the IFEX Strategy Conference and General Meeting.

AFEX deplored the increasing incidents of killings, physical attacks, arbitrary arrests and detentions, threats and harassment of journalists, media professionals and activists in Africa as a threat towards the enjoyment of free expression and the ultimate development of the continent. In particular, it condemned the abuse of public power and legal provisions by highly connected state and non-state actors to muzzle freedom of expression and stifle critical journalism for narrow personal and political gains.

The Network noted that “sadly, most of these violations perpetrated against journalists and activists are left unpunished due to the deep-seated culture of impunity and entitlement in the continent. In the past three years, several journalists have been killed with total impunity, a development which has had a chilling effect on the enjoyment of freedom of expression rights by African citizens. The killing of journalists is the surest way of silencing dissent or even intimidating journalists into self-censorship, thus further emboldening perpetrators of these heinous crimes to recommit such violent acts.”

It re-stated its “strong condemnation of all acts of violence meted to journalists and freedom of expression advocates in the region” and called on “governments in Africa to commit to ensuring that journalists carry out their legitimate duties freely without any intimidation whatsoever”.

AFEX also condemned the use of “spurious charges” against journalists by state or non-state actors to counter dissent, which undermines and weakens democracy.

The Network therefore called for the abolition of all criminal defamation laws and the decriminalisation of press offenses by African countries that are yet to do so.

It also expressed alarm over the increasing threats to freedom of expression online, including the practice of content filtering, restrictive cybercrime laws and even internet shutdowns. Accordingly, AFEX called on governments in Africa to respect their citizens’ right to share and access information through the Internet.

On efforts being made at both regional and international level to promote freedom of expression rights both offline and online, AFEX welcomed the joint commitment by the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) – at the 12th African Union (AU) – European Union (EU) Human Rights Dialogue that took place on January 10, 2017 – to promote and protect freedom of expression and the right of access to information in the digital age.

It also applauded the fact that both EU and AU have welcomed the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR’s) Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa, while emphasizing that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.

AFEX called on governments in countries that are heading to the polls in 2017 and beyond, to ensure that journalists are free to cover the electoral process freely, adding that “Attacks on journalists and suppression of freedom of expression rights during elections undermine the democratic tenets of any country.”

It gave its full support to the ongoing efforts by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Advocate Pansy Tlakula, to develop Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections in Africa, under the auspices of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, with a view to guaranteeing free and fair elections on the continent and the overall strengthening of democratic governance in Africa.

At the end of their meeting, AFEX members paid tribute to media personnel, civil society activists and human rights defenders who have been put behind bars unjustly or even killed for standing for cherished democratic values and fundamental human rights.

Regarding the growth of the network, AFEX welcomed the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) based in South Africa as a new member increasing AFEX membership from 12 to 13.

The meeting congratulated a member of the AFEX Steering Committee, Mr Gilbert Sendwugwa, Executive Director of the African Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), on his election to serve on the IFEX Council for the next two years during the IFEX General Meeting.

MRA Launches ‘FOI Hall of Shame’, Names Ikeja High Court Justice Okuwobi First Inductee

Justice Okuwobi
Justice Doris Okuwobi of Ikeja High Court. First inductee into ‘FOI Hall of Shame’

Lagos, Tuesday, July 4, 2017: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) yesterday in Lagos launched the “FOI Hall of Shame” aimed at focusing attention on public officials and institutions undermining the effectiveness of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 through their actions, decisions or utterances and named Justice Doris Okuwobi of the Ikeja High Court as the first inductee.

Announcing the initiative in Lagos, MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, said: “six years after the Act was enacted into Law, it has become clear that there is a concerted effort by some public officials and institutions, cutting across all arms and all levels of government, to ensure that it does not work and that it does not achieve its objectives. We intend to call them out in the court of public opinion.”

According to him, “every week, MRA will induct into the FOI Hall of Shame a public institution or public official who, by its, his or her action or inaction, decision, utterance or in any other way is undermining or has undermined the effective implementation of the FOI Act and we will provide ample justification for our decision regarding such an institution or official.”

Explaining the choice of Justice Okuwobi as the first inductee into the FOI Hall of Shame, Mr. Ojo said her ruling on an FOI suit on June 19, 2017 is “one of the most ridiculous decisions ever given by a court anywhere in the world”, adding that the implication of the ruling is that if a public institution ignores a freedom of information request by failing to respond to it, it can never be sued, despite the clear provisions of the Freedom of Information Act to the contrary.

He recounted as follows:
On November 4, 2016, MRA made a freedom of information request to the Ojodu Local Council Development Area, by a letter with the subject: “Request for Records of Water Works Plans for Araromi Zion Estate”. MRA asked the Council to provide it with relevant information about the provision of government services to a community in Ikeja, in the heart of Lagos, completely neglected by the government and which enjoys no government service of any description. The Council ignored the FOI request.
On December 6, 2016, MRA filed an application at the Ikeja Judicial Division of the Lagos State High Court seeking leave to compel the Council to comply with the provisions of the FOI Act and provide MRA with the information requested.
The first outrage, as far as the Judiciary’s involvement in this is concerned, is that although the FOI Act requires courts to deal with such matters speedily, it took the court more than seven months just to list and hear a simple motion exparte for leave.
When Justice Okuwobi finally heard the application for leave on June 19, 2017, in the face of the complaint and prayer for a declaration that the failure and/or refusal by the Council to give MRA a written notice that access to all or part of the information requested will not be granted was a violation of the FOI Act, the judge held that MRA’s failure to show evidence of a written notice by the Council denying it access to the information was fatal to its case.
It is also a matter of serious concern that although the FOI Act gives public institutions seven days within which to respond to a request for information and states clearly that where the institution fails to give access to the information or record applied for within this time limit, the institution is deemed to have refused to give access, Justice Okuwobi ruled: “I will not speculate on the fact that there was a denial by the Respondent’s failure to comply.”
Finally, although the FOI Act gives public institutions seven days to provide the information requested and requires an applicant who has been denied access to information to approach the Court within 30 days after the public institution denied or is deemed to have denied access to the information, Justice Okuwobi held, more than seven months after MRA made its request for the information, that the application to the court was “premature” because the Council had not given MRA a written notice that it would not grant access.
In effect, the judge used the Council’s disregard of its duties and obligations under the FOI Act, against MRA, the victim, which had come before the court for redress.
Mr. Ojo said: “It beats the imagination that a judge will condone and actively encourage such an act of impunity by making it impossible for those whose rights are so flagrantly and wantonly violated to approach the courts to vindicate their rights. The Judgement does not only constitute a deadly impediment to the effectiveness of the FOI Act, it also brings the Judiciary to disrepute and diminishes citizens’ confidence in it.”
It is on the basis of the foregoing, Mr Ojo submits, that on Monday, July 3, 2017, MRA inducted Justice Doris Okuwobi of the Ikeja High Court into the FOI Hall of Shame.