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Ugandan Peter Labeja wins 2020 ACCER Awards

An investigative journalist from Uganda, Peter Labeja, has emerged overall winner of the 2020 African Climate Change and Environment Reporting (ACCER) Awards.

ACCER Awards
Past winners of the ACCER Awards

This disclosure was made as organisers, the Pan African Climate Justice (PACJA), on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 released names of the 25 candidates who won in the 2020 environmental journalism awards it started in 2012.

The 25 journalists were recognised in the ACCER Awards in a digital event streamed live on Tuesday on PACJA’s social media platforms.

The event was held on the sidelines of the two-day fifth edition of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-V), which started on February 22, 2021.

The winners of the different awards in the set categories were from Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Cameroon, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Algeria.

There were at least four categories done in two languages. They were Radio, Print, TV and Digital. Three winners were picked for every category in each of the languages.

The Radio (English) Category had Aunyango Nkhoma of ‘Zodiak Broadcasting Station’ in Malawi as the second runners-up, Victor Faison and Mphatso Mkumpha of Malawi’s Chisomo Radio Station jointly as first runners-up, and Peter Labeja of Uganda’s Radio Rupiny becoming the winner.

The Radio (French) Category’s three winners were all from Benin in the following order: Chamsou Dine Koto Baguiri of Arzèkè FM was the second runners-up, preceded by Ernest Agbota of Radio Nationale du Bénin as first runners-up, and finally Romain Dek Adjevi of Radio Tokpa as the winner of the category.

Next was the TV (English) Category that was shared between Kenya and Ghana. Kenya’s NTV produced the second runners-up and the first, both female. Sheilah Sendeyo and Zaynab Wandati were second and first runners-up respectively, while Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman of GHOneTV in Ghana became the winner.

The TV (French) Category went to Vincent Kiendrebéogo of Radio Broadcasting TV in Burkina Faso as second runners-up, Redha Menassel of Algeria’s Radio Alger Chaine 3 as first runners-up and Togolese Daniel Addeh of Cameroon’s Tele Sud Channel as the winner.

The other category awarded by PACJA was Print (English). Its second runners-up was Amindeh Blaise Atabong of Cameroon, Daniel Wagema Mwangi of Kenya as the first runners-up and Olatunji Ololade of Nigeria’s The Nation newspaper as the winner.

The Print (French) Category went to Dewa Aboubakar of Cameroon as the second runners-up, Charles Essodina Kolou as first runners-up and Afsétou Sawadogo of Burkina Faso’s Editions Sidwaya as the winner.

Finally, the digital categories, which accounted for almost half of the more than 400 entries shortlisted in the first round of selections, had three winners in English, and another set of three for French. English had Robert Kibet of Kenya as the second runners-up, preceded by Kelechukwu Iruoma of Nigeria, with the winner being Janet Murikira of Kenya’s Baraka FM.

The winners of the Digital (French) Category consisted Josiane Kouagheu of Cameroon as second runners-up, Helene Doubi Dji of Togo as first runners-up and Momar Niang from Senegal as the category’s winner.

Three journalists will get certificates for submitting several other very well done stories. They are Simon Labeja, Janet Murikira and Chamsou Dine Koto of Benin.

Five editors and communication experts sat in the selection panel that came up with the winners announced yesterday. They were Michael Simire of EnviroNews Nigeria, Lilian Odera of KTN, Gerard Senapkon Guedegbe of Benin and Andrew Kipkemboi of Standard Group. The four worked under the leadership of Emmanuel Wongibeo, who is also the Deputy Director of Cameroon Radio TV.

The United Nations Environment Programme’s Director for Africa, Dr Juliette Biao, graced the occasion and gave a televised speech stating that they were pleased to see PACJA achieve the fifth edition of the ACCER Awards despite the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 Pandemic throughout 2020, when calls for submission of stories for the competition were made.

“Climate Change, biodiversity loss and pollution … put the wellbeing of the current generation at unacceptable risk,” she said, adding that emissions were now 62 per cent higher than they were in 1990, with parts of the biodiversity threatened with extinction.

She quoted United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres as saying: “Humanity is waging war with nature”, saying this was also a call to right the wrongs (recklessness) by all stakeholders. Dr Biao assured that there was hope if all went beyond commitment and promises to deal with the climate crisis, to action.

“First, we need to achieve global carbon neutrality in the next three decades. Secondly, we must align global finance behind the Paris Agreement, and, thirdly, we must deliver a breakthrough on climate change adaptation to protect the world against the effects of climate change, especially for the poor and most vulnerable,” she said.

She finally reminded journalists that their role in interpreting and simplifying the jargon in the climate change stories for easy understanding by their targets, who include the affected, vulnerable and decision or policy makers. 

Also in a televised speech, the PACJA Executive Director, Mithika Mwenda, called for more focus and space for environment and climate change stories in media houses.

“There is no doubt that the climate crisis is an existential threat to humanity and the health of the planet. Before Covid-19 struck, the international discourse on climate change was the most topical issue, even shaping the global geopolitical interactions. The nexus between the two crises – climate change and Covid-19 – continues to dominate the global stage,” he said.

PACJA, through the ACCER Awards, has established that journalists can help link knowledge to action, hence being a key pillar in addressing of the climate crisis.

Through their stories, such journalists make a compelling case for crises to be tackled simultaneously.

Dr Mithika promised that the award would in future accept more stories in Kiswahili, Arabic and maybe mother tongue, as it grows.

He also called upon everyone to play their part in fighting the crisis, saying the earth and its natural resources could do without humans, “but the vice versa is entirely untrue”.

Others who addressed the event from Nairobi included Alvin Munyasia, a Food Security and Climate Justice Advisor at Oxfam Secretariat International, Phillip Akello of Christian Aid, and Mr Wongibe, the lead judge in the ACCER Awards 2020.

The finalists will have cash prizes, certificates, some of them medals, and also benefit from a training to be held in a country to be suggested after consideration of safety on the backdrop of the Covind-19 pandemic. Some will also have the opportunity to attend international events such as the UNFCCC’s CoP26 to be held in Glasgow this year.

The ACCER Awards 2020 process was overseen by a committee of experts from different parts of the African continent. They included Dr Ibrahima Sane (Senegal), Pamela Asigi (Royal Media, Kenya), Ann Gitonga (PACJA Secretariat), Florence Syevuo of SDG-Kenya, Robert Muthami of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Lynet Otieno of Standard Group, Kenya, Kofi Adu-Domfeh of Media General in Ghana, Mohamed Atani, who is the Head of Communications and Outreach at the UNEP Africa Office, Eugene Nforngwa of PACJA Secretariat – Cameroon, Alvin Munyasia of Oxfam International, Leah Wanambwa of the African Union Commission and Charles Muraya of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

The ACCER Awards is sponsored by the Swedish Government. The next ACCER Awards will be held in 2022.

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