Fisayo Soyombo won the award for his undercover investigation on Nigeria’s criminal justice system funded by The Cable and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).
Now a freelance journalist, Soyombo spent two weeks in detention — five days in a police cell and eight as an inmate in Ikoyi Prison — to track corruption in Nigeria’s criminal justice system, beginning from the moment of arrest by the police to the point of release from prison.
To experience the workings of the system in its raw state, he adopted the pseudonym Ojo Olajumoke and feigned an offence for which he was arrested and detained in police custody, arraigned in court and eventually remanded in prison.
The judges — comprising Tina Rosenberg, a Pulitzer prize-winning author and journalist; Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international anchor; Jeremy Bown, BBC’s Middle East editor; Lindsey Hilsum, international editor of Channel 4 News; Peter Maass, senior editor at The Intercept; and The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson — commended Soyombo’s “vivid and compelling three-part series” which exposed “the everyday corruption and abuses of Nigeria’s criminal justice system”.
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This was the third time in six years, the others being 2014 and 2016, that Soyombo had been shortlisted for the Kurt Schork awards, which recognise excellence in courageous reporting of conflict, corruption, human rights transgressions and other related issues.
Shah Meer Baloch, Pakistani journalist, and Kamiran Sadoun, Syrian journalist, were also named winners of two other categories — “freelance” and the recently-introduced “news fixer” award — respectively.
The three winners will each receive a cash prize of US$5,000.
Nigeria’s Philip Obaji was among the eight finalists for the “freelance” category won by Baloch, while The Nation newspaper’s Olatunji Ololade was a finalist in the “local reporter” category won by Soyombo.
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The latest international recognition for Soyombo is a continuation of a stellar year for the investigative journalist, who, this year alone, has either won or been shortlisted for the Fetisov Journalism Awards (“outstanding investigation” category), the West Africa Media Excellence Award (“investigative reporting” category), the WJP Anthony Lewis Prize for Exceptional Rule of Law Journalism, the One World Media Awards (“international journalist of the year” category) and the People Journalism Prize for Africa (PJPA).
Soyombo, a three-time winner of the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting, has won numerous other awards at home and abroad.