Tuesday, 15 June 2021

German DW Freedom Of Speech Award Presented To Nigerian investigative journalist Tobore Ovuorie


"On no account should we let our voice be silenced. We must refuse to conform to dictatorship. That way, we will bring light into darkness and our various societies, communities and countries will become saner, safer and better spaces for us all and generations to come," this year's DW Freedom of Speech Award laureate Tobore Ovuorie said at the award ceremony in Bonn on Monday evening.

 

At the presentation of the award, Director General Peter Limbourg said: "Tobore Ovuorie has met extreme challenges during her investigation into the trafficking of young women from Africa to Europe. She brought the fate of thousands of victims to the attention of authorities, who without the work of this brave journalist, would not have been forced to act."

 

Award winner Ovuorie from Nigeria said in her acceptance speech: "Being a journalist in Nigeria is difficult. We struggle for an economic basis for our work and fight for access to information. We have doors slammed in our faces when we ask questions and are bullied, intimidated, arrested and imprisoned. I can confidently say that the free press in my country and surrounding African countries like Cameroon is in terrible shape."

 

Ovuorie used a metaphor to describe the Twitter ban in Nigeria: "Now, I have to climb the fence and get into my apartment - Twitter - through the back door and windows like a thief even when the keys to my apartment are with me. This is how my colleagues have been operating as well in Nigeria since the Twitter ban was slammed by the Nigerian government on the country with no fewer than 200 million persons. In a democracy, this should not be."

 

Ovuorie urged "governments of the world to prevail on the Nigerian government to end the Twitter ban. Democracy should be of the people and for the people. Nothing less. Critical and sophisticated journalism in Nigeria is shrinking and democracy is being weakened due to freedom of speech being limited. She said that the Internet is "a great tool for journalism and democracy."

 

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, gave one of the laudations for Ovuorie. He said that "Deutsche Welle made an inspired choice by selecting Tobore Ovuorie for this year's Freedom of Speech Award. We hear of journalists going above and beyond the call of duty to investigate a story. Tobore Ovuorie took a step that was simply unimaginable. She became aware of the horrors of sex trafficking by speaking to some of the victims. But to understand their plight more fully, she joined them. She placed herself in a position where beatings and rape were predictable. Little did she know, she would come within a hair's breadth of being murdered.  I cannot think of a more courageous journalist. Her passion to unearth the truth – to reveal the plight of the victims and the cruelty of their persecutors – led her to take a leap that very few journalists ever could summon the bravery and sense of duty to replicate. She is an inspiration to anyone who seeks to ferret out the truth. That passion for the truth is essential for bringing to account criminals and abusive officials. Atrocities happen behind closed doors. It takes someone with the commitment and dedication of Tobore Ovuorie to pry those doors open."


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