The role of the media: Interview with award-winning journalist
What role do you wish for journalism and media to play in Africa?
Destiny Onyemihia: The African media must understand their role as watch dog of the society and must at all times remain neutral and ensure that its reporting is balanced. The media must, as a matter of urgency, form a single network or forum where media across the region can share information to enable them to report accurately on happenings in Africa.
What are the main points of your article Agenda 2063: The Role of the Media?
Destiny Onyemihia: Agenda 2063, introduced by the African Union, is a fifty years plan to promote good governance, democracy, respect for human rights and sustainable development in Africa. However, at the time of working on the story, I realised that the Agenda was under-reported and I decided to take it up as a challenge. My story highlights the gains of the agenda to Africa and emphasises the importance of the media reporting on the progress made. In addition, the story calls for the attention of the African Union to prioritise the safety of journalists on the continent, given the hostility shown towards African journalists in their country.
How does it feel to win this prize? What significance does it have in your professional and in your personal life?
Destiny Onyemihia: I feel very happy and humbled winning this award. Emerging as the overall winner of an award scheme that was open to Anglophone, Francophone and Luscophone Africans, with over five hundred entries from thirty-three African countries, is such a humbling experience. The feeling cannot be any less, I must say.
Winning this award was quite inspiring and motivating for me. It gave me that reassurance that our work as journalists is being appreciated. The award has also spurred the drive to work harder regardless of the growing challenges for journalists in Africa.
The African media must understand their role as watch dog of the society and must at all times remain neutral and ensure that its reporting is balanced.
Why did you choose to become a journalist?
Destiny Onyemihia: “I grew up during the military era, a period most Nigerians will not want to forget in a hurry given the several human rights abuses witnessed during various military regimes. This to a large extent spurred the desire to always ensure that leaders – or rulers, as we called them during the military era – are accountable for their actions.
Good enough democracy was restored in 1999, yet the passion of being a voice to the voiceless remained one of my strongest desires especially after realising that even the democratic system of governance had its own shortfalls too. It was only natural for me to embrace journalism which I strongly believed was, and still is, a viable tool to achieve my goal.”
Why is it important for you to advocate for ACDEG?
Destiny Onyemihia: “Shortly after many African countries gained independence particularly in the 60s, there was great hope on how much the continent would achieve given its numerous resources. It is well over fifty years ago and not much has been achieved. It is even worrisome that the African continent seems to be playing ‘catch up’ with other continents of the world.
If you take a critical look at the problems confronting Africa, you will observe that the link connecting these numerous challenges has to do with poor governance. So, it behoves on all – especially those of us who are journalists – to encourage and champion activities that will bring about positive change given our role as the fourth estate of the realm. Given what the continent stands to benefit, advocating for the implementation of the African Charter on Democracy, Election and Governance (ACDEG) remains a major priority for me.”
The Continental Journalism Award on AU Charter was hosted by Media Foundation for West Africa in Accra, Ghana. Onyemihia was nominated together with 5 other journalists: Vanessa Adie Offiong from Nigeria, working for Daily Trust, Afeez Hanafi from Nigeria, working for Punch, Julius Barigaba from Uganda, working for The East African, Wagdy Sawahel from Egypt (awarded as 1st runner up for the award), working for University World News – Africa Edition and Momar Niang from Senegal (awarded as 2nd runner up), working for Ouestaf News.