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#followjourn – @ruudelmendorp Ruud Elmendorp/freelance video journalist

September 30th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Recommended journalists

Who? Ruud Elmendorp

Where? Ruud is a freelance video journalist based in Africa

Twitter? @ruudelmendorp

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips, we are recommending journalists to follow online too. Recommended journalists can be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to rachel at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

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UN journalism fellowship now open to applications

March 3rd, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Awards, Editors' pick

Journalists from developing countries can now apply for a fellowship which will give them the opportunity to report from the UN in New York.

The Dag Hammarskjöld Scholarship Fund for Journalists’ fellowship scheme is open to reporters aged 25-35 who are native to one of the developing countries in Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean, and are currently working full-time for a media organisation in a developing nation.

Applicants must demonstrate an interest in and commitment to international affairs and to conveying a better understanding of the United Nations to their readers and audiences. They must also have approval from their media organizations to spend up to two months in New York to report from the United Nations.

According to the fund’s website applications can be submitted until 6 April.

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The BBC’s Africa correspondent on the danger of being a journalist in Somalia

November 30th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Press freedom and ethics

Andrew Harding, the BBC’s Africa correspondent, on the dangers of working as a journalist in Somalia:

One man recognises me and cameraman Phil Davies from a previous trip we made about seven years ago. He used to be a journalist but not now.

“Too dangerous,” he says with a frown, then mimes the action of a saw, amputating his arm. He lives in an area of the Somali capital controlled by the Islamist militia, al-Shabab. “They lash people there. Every day – for the smallest thing.”

Full blog post on bbc.co.uk at this link…

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Sports journalists in Ghana deny taking money from government during world cup

November 10th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Press freedom and ethics

A group of sports journalists in Ghana have denied allegations that they received money from the Ghana Football Association or Ministry of Youth and Sports during the World Cup earlier this year.

According to a report by Citifmonline, the ministry has said it spent $50,000 on media relations during the competition, which was given to the Ghana FA and distributed to journalists.

Full story on Ghanain news site Citifmonline at this link…

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Telegraph.co.uk: BBC to apologise to Band Aid and Geldof over funding slurs

The BBC is to make a series of apologies to the Band Aid Trust and Sir Bob Geldof for programmes broadcast earlier this year, which gave the impression that money raised by Band And and Live Aid had been diverted to a rebel group in Ethiopia.

According to the Telegraph, the BBC’s apology, aired on all outlets where the claims were broadcast, will say: “The BBC wishes to make clear that these statements should not have been broadcast, and to apologise unreservedly to the Band Aid Trust for the misleading and unfair impression which was created. The BBC also wishes to apologise to Sir Bob Geldof for implying that he had declined to be interviewed because he thought the subject too sensitive to be discussed openly.”

Full story on the Telegraph at this link…

An explanation about the delay in apologising for the “wrong impression” was given by the director of BBC Global News Peter Horrocks on the Today programme this morning.

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The Daily Beast: A look at Africa’s WikiLeaks

A look at Sahara Reporters – “Africa’s WikiLeaks” – by the Daily Beast in an article last week explained the site’s origins and the threatened existence of its founder Omoyele Sowore:

Its scoops shielded by US libel laws, the site is a phenomenon in Nigeria, a nation that is blessed by huge oil reserves – it is the fifth-largest foreign supplier of oil to the US – and also cursed by the outrageous corruption that petrodollars have created.

The scoops have brought threats against Sowore, who is often publicly denounced by political leaders back in Nigeria as a scandal-mongering criminal. Sowore says he assumes his life is in danger if he travels openly in his homeland anytime soon, a view shared by Western diplomats in Nigeria.

Full story on the Daily Beast at this link…

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ONI: Fears of internet filtering in Rwanda against independent newspaper Umuvugizi

OpenNet Initiative (ONI) reports that Umuvugizi, one of two independent newspapers currently under a six-month suspension by the Rwandan government, will also have its website blocked by the state’s authorities.

Umuvugizi decided to move online in defiance of the suspension, which would prevent the paper from reporting on the country’s forthcoming elections.

“This would be the first case of internet filtering in Rwanda and only the second recorded incident in eastern Africa,” suggests ONI, a joint initiative from three North American institutions monitoring internet filtering and web surveillance.

Full post at this link…

(via @kigaliwire)

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Huffington Post: Nigeria’s Next ‘a paper that can’t afford to die’

The newspaper that precipitated a change in government by exposing the true story of the state of health of Nigeria’s President Umaru Yar’Adua – who died on Wednesday – is now fighting for its own survival.

Next, an upstart of a newspaper launched in Lagos 15 months ago by Dele Olojede, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former foreign editor of New York Newsday, reported in January that the President of that oil-rich country of 150 million people was brain dead and would not be returning to office.

This was the bravest and boldest stroke of a newspaper that has trampled on so many powerful toes that its corporate advertising has dwindled and the distribution routes of its print edition have been sabotaged.

Philip van Niekerk looks at how Next is trying to reach new audiences and revenue streams through mobile, how it’s website has outstripped its competition and why such a newspaper is important for Nigeria:

The need for honest, brave journalism is huge and far overshadows the many millions of dollars of well-meaning aid and support for democracy and civil society that usually comes from foreign donors. This is one paper that can’t afford to die.

Full story at this link…

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The journalist and NGO collaboration to expose Ivory Coast toxic waste dump

October 13th, 2009 | 13 Comments | Posted by in Comment, Legal, Press freedom and ethics

It can now be reported that legal firm Carter-Ruck tried to prevent the Guardian from reporting MP Paul Farrelly’s question about UK oil trader Trafigura in Parliament, but it will no longer pursue its attempt.

Given this news, and that Trafigura and Carter-Ruck are trending topics on Twitter this morning, it seems timely to publish this commentary on events from last month.

[NB: Farrelly's question concerns Trafigura and its solicitors, Carter-Ruck]

“Getting investigative journalists to co-operate is notoriously as difficult as herding cats,” said David Leigh, head of investigations at British newspaper, the Guardian, in a comment piece last month.

But a disregard for secretive journalistic conventions, led to his most recent large exposé: the events surrounding what many call one of the gravest pollution disasters in recent history.

Last month, the Guardian splashed with the story that British oil company Trafigura had offered a £30 million ($49,056,000) payout to 31,000 victims of toxic dumping in West Africa – £1,000 ($1,635) each.

The dumping itself –  400 tonnes of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast by an oil tanker, the Probo Koala, in 2006 – was already public, but less clear was what damage had been caused and whether Trafigura knew of its hazardous effects.

The Guardian reported the £100 million ($163,560,000) legal battle behind what it called a ‘cover-up exercise’ by Trafigura and published emails, allegedly showing that Trafigura ‘was fully aware that its waste dumped in Ivory Coast was so toxic that it was banned in Europe’.

(Trafigura response further detailed below; it denies liability and a cover-up.)

Global silence
Just the day before the Guardian published, Trafigura tried to get a gagging order on Dutch paper Volkskrant and Norwegian TV.

It had already attempted to force the Guardian to delete earlier news articles, and was successful in making the Times of London print a correction. A libel case was launched against the BBC’s flagship news programme, Newsnight.

Collaborative effort
Journalists from the UK, Norway, the Netherlands and Estonia joined with a lawyer from the firm Leigh Day, which had been attempting to sue Trafigura on behalf of 31,000 inhabitants of Abidjan, and the charities Greenpeace and Amnesty International in order to piece the story together.

The emails, which provided the bulk of the evidence, had been collected from various countries with the aid of the NGOs and then shared between the reporters, despite the legal threat looming large.

They decided they should go public when the United Nations published a scheduled report on the Ivory Coast disaster.

But Trafigura nearly put pay to the big scoop: it announced the compensation settlement to the West African victims, even though it continued – and continues – to deny liability.

Regardless, the Guardian and then Newsnight went public.

The links:

Global reaction
Despite the legal risk, allegations and emails were published without relying on Wikileaks. But the whistleblowing organisation did offer its own leaked document and praised the Guardian for its ‘solid work,’ via its Twitter feed (@wikileaks).

Greenpeace, a leading environmental campaigning organization, wants to see Trafigura prosecuted for manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, and cites documents which it says demonstrate the waste’s high toxicity.

In September, Trafigura’s £30-million pay-out was approved in the UK High court. But, as Katy Dowell of theLaywer.com pointed out, it’s not a straightforward victory for the claimants: Trafigura has never accepted liability. The victims only got a third of their overall claim and legal fees are yet to be discussed, she added.

Trafigura still claims that the firm representing the claimants, Leigh Day & Co, ‘had failed to demonstrate any link between the waste deposited and any deaths, miscarriages, still births or other serious injuries’. It also denies any allegations of a ‘cover-up’. In its statement on September 19 it claimed the company which actually dumped the ‘slops’, Compagnie Tommy, did so without authority. The settlement ‘vindicates’ Trafigura, the company claimed.

UK libel laws threat to democracy
It is another example that questions the place of UK libel laws in a functioning democracy. Vital facts about a devastating pollution disaster nearly went completely unreported, as a result of the huge costs involved in going to court.

Campaigning environmental journalist at the Guardian, George Monbiot commented that it’s not surprising that most of the British media wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole: “The reason isn’t hard to divine: Trafigura has been throwing legal threats around like confetti.”

He threw in a frightening thought:

“How many Trafiguras have got away with it by frightening critics away with Britain’s libel laws?

“These iniquitous, outdated laws are a threat to democracy, a threat to society, a threat to the environment and public health. They must be repealed.”

Susan Perry commented on the case for the MinnPost. Originally from the US, she was glad to be leaving the UK:

“It wasn’t only the story itself that stunned me. I was also astonished to hear the BBC journalists describe how the reporting of the story had been essentially suppressed in Europe’s mainstream media until last week. Only by banding together did the BBC and other media outlets dare to go public with the information they’d uncovered.”

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Newswatch: Q&A with Bill Kovach, founder of the Committee for Concerned Journalists

September 14th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism

Newswatch, the weekly Nigerian news magazine, has interviewed Bill Kovach, the former curator of the Nieman Journalism Foundation at Harvard University, and the founder of the Committee for Concerned Journalists, CCJ. Earlier in his career Kovach was chief of the New York Times Washington bureau, and executive editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Kovach answers questions about his (54 year long) career to date. Some of the best answers come near the end – on African news coverage, for example:

“[I] think the western world, I don’t know about the rest of the world, but the western world has always thought of Africa as something they had to interprete through their eyes and I always thought that was wrong.

(…)

“One of the things I love about the Nieman programme is that back in the 1960s, the Nieman programme refused to take people from South Africa because South African authorities only wanted white. But Harvard told the South African government and owners of the press that whites would be taken only if every other year, we got a black South African. And so, we began to bring into the Nieman programme white South Africans. Every other year, and soon it was every year, more whites and blacks got their chances.”

Full Q&A at this link…

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