Six Nation Media Group journalists on Tuesday bagged top awards at the Annual Journalism Excellence Awards gala, held by the Media Council of Kenya.
Beatrice Kangai, an online sub-editor, emerged Journalist of the Year for her investigative story, “Smuggled from Nairobi to Johannesburg”.
The story, which featured four people who crossed the country's borders without official documents to South Africa, also won the Investigative Reporting Award.
"I am deeply honoured and grateful to have been chosen as the Journalist of the Year for 2021 in the print section. This award is testimony to the significance of investigative journalism and reporting without fear or favour,” she said after receiving the award from Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu.
“My inspiration comes from the hard work and dedication of many of my colleagues who repeatedly keep setting examples of exemplary journalism.”
Other journalists recognised for the same award were Ruth Ikeah of Radio Rahma (radio section) and Timothy Otieno of KTN at Standard Group (TV section).
"Speaking truth to power"
Ms Ikeah said that even though this was her fifth award in the 10 years she has been a journalist, she never expected it.
“I knew I would win one or two categories but did not expect that I would be the radio journalist of the year,” she said.
Notable for winning two awards was Paul Wafula, Daily Nation’s business editor and financial investigative reporter.
His environmental story titled “Rotting from the deep: The tragedy that is Lake Victoria” won him the Environmental Reporting Award while the business story titled “Billions, bullets and bravado: The untold story of SportPesa” earned him the Business and Financial Reporting Award.
Mr Wafula said the past year was one of the toughest years for journalists in Kenya and the rest of the world as they had to battle the Covid-19 pandemic but still focus on the ultimate goal of speaking truth to power.
“We had to tell wonderful stories of the exploits of our athletes but also expose the rot at Kemsa (Kenya Medical Supplies Authority). I feel truly honoured by this award and will forever remain indebted to the team of editors, photographers, sub-editors and the indefatigable NMG content hub, who are the unsung heroes in the quality of journalism that NMG offers.”
Other NMG journalists who bagged awards included Dennis Okari (NTV), who won the Health Reporting Award for his ‘Red alert’ story, which featured supermarket staff injecting chemicals into meat to preserve it longer.
Bernardine Mutanu won the Covid-19 Reporting Award for the story “What cold season means for Covid-19” while Faustine Ngila bagged the ICT and Telecommunications Reporting Award for the story “Just a click away: Apps bring doctors to your home”.
Cellestine Olilo’s sports story titled “From Iten to the world: a pursuit of cycling glory, success" won her the Sports Reporting Award with Daily Nation’s revise editor Dorothy Kweyu won the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“This was quite a surprise actually because six years ago, I won a lifetime achievement award. When I was asked to attend the event, I suspected something was cooking but did not know what exactly. It’s touching because it means my labour has not been in vain and that my colleagues in the profession continue to recognise me,” said Ms Kweyu.
Fake news ‘pandemic’
The impact that Covid-19 has had on newsrooms was highlighted at the awards ceremony, with MCK Chief Executive Officer (CEO) David Omwoyo noting that the real pandemic has been the upcoming of fake news.
“People edit videos and pictures and make them look real. The competition between fake and real news has therefore put a pressure on journalists to be keen on verification of news,” he explained.
"We have 18 winners from an initial pool of 1,119. Judges have worked day and night to bring out the best. There is a lot of a technological revolution and the pandemic of fake news but in all this, we have seen high quality pieces of journalism" he added.
DCJ Mwilu also echoed the same, saying that the importance of reliable information cannot be underestimated.
“I hope during this year’s celebration we mull over the importance of information as a public good. During the lockdown, the importance of the media to keep us informed has been magnified. The range of award categories illustrate the robust nature of journalists in our country. Nothing should come between you and your duty to tell the truth,” said Justice Mwilu.
“As we celebrate the work of journalists today, we can’t ignore the difficulties they face in gathering and disseminating information. In this age of fake news, the media has an active role in tackling misinformation through verification and ensuring accuracy. This is also a period during which we appreciate the important role which the media plays in our society. This is a period to remember all those journalists who have lost their lives to bring us stories and, in an endeavour, to bring us the truth.”