Journalist with a heart: Nkanga gets reward for courage

Multilingual investigative journalist, Peter Nkanga, has won the first ever Jamal Khashoggi Award for Courageous Journalism for 2019.

The award is an initiative of the US-based global human rights foundation, Inti Raymi Fund.

In a letter signed by Anas Talalqa, Human Rights Advisor at Inti Raymi Fund, the organisation congratulated Mr Nkanga for his selection for the award, noting that “the award honours the brave journalists who expose abuse of power and corruption, share difficult truths, discuss taboo topics, and work in hostile environments.

“For true democracy to work, there must be a free press.”

Stephen Nkanga, also a former West Africa representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and winner of the online category of the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting 2010, tweeted in excitement over the award:

“Today I was announced a winner of the ‘Jamal Khashoggi Award for Courageous Journalism’ by @IntiRaymiFund.

“I dedicate this award to all journalists and human rights defenders in #Africa. The struggle is real, but it is not over until We Win. #JusticeForJamal.”

A fierce advocate for press freedom, Peter has been at the forefront of the campaign for the rights of journalists in Nigeria and across sub-Sahara Africa.

In 2018, he spearheaded the advocacy for the release of Jones Abiri, the publisher of Bayelsa State-based weekly paper, Weekly Source, who was arrested by operatives of the Directorate of State Security in July 2016.

He also coordinated the advocacy and protests in Nigeria on Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was murdered at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.

According to Inti Raymi Fund, “The Jamal Khashoggi Award (JKA) for Courageous Journalism was created in December 2018 to show people that journalists are not going to step aside, cannot be silenced, and deserve to be recognised for their strength in the face of adversity.”

“(I have) mixed feelings: joy, happiness and a lot of sorrow. I was with the Committee to Protect Journalists based in New York for five years, and I left 2017. I’m no longer with them, but they will still work together to defend the rights of journalists worldwide,” he said in an interview with Channels Television.

How did he feel when he received the news? He said: “I was pleased. I felt a sense of fulfillment that when you really give your best, you get rewarded. I felt that peace; that joy; but upon closer introspective reflection, I would say I felt sad; sad because though we might be saying it’s a good thing, you have to remember the substance: a human being who could have been someone’s father, anyone’s brother, nephew or son walked into the one place where he would feel the safest in other country – your embassy, and instead of getting service which you have a right to by virtue of your nationality, you end up being hacked into pieces, like it’s meat. And now we are hearing that his body was incinerated.

“It’s appalling; and that’s why for me when I think about this award now, I think about: what are we Nigerians doing for our own who have suffered similar things. 32 years ago, Dele Giwa was killed via a parcel bomb – the same October, 1996. Thirty-three years we are entering, still nothing. It makes me worry …we watch on Network Africa, we see wars everywhere; we see authoritarianism, we see totalitarianism, we see governments trying to perpetuate themselves as if it’s monarchy. We see evil all around us.

“And evil thrives when good people do nothing; but when good people do something, it’s important also that they are encouraged so that they can do more, and other people (could) see them as a measuring yardstick, and say if they can do it, then I can do it.”

Interestingly, another Nigerian, United Kingdom-based Ayo Awokoya, was among the five journalists on the final shortlist for the award.

Others are Ben Mauk (United States of America), Paul Shalala from Zambia and Rabia Noor for Pakistan.