The Hurricane At Newswatch

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Yomi Okusanya & Kenny Ogungbe present the award to Chigbo
Yomi Okusanya & Kenny Ogungbe present the award to Chigbo

|  By Augustine Adah  |

THE Nigerian Media industry witnessed several events some of which were positive and negative in 2012. One of the biggest upsets in the industry in the year was the disappearance of Newswatch, the international award winning news magazine, from the newsstands in August. This happened 15 months after Jimoh Ibrahim, group managing director, Global Fleet, bought 51 percent equity shares of Newswatch Communications Limited. The coming of Ibrahim as a core investor was to turn around the fortunes of the magazine with an injection of more funds into the company. But the reverse was the case. The publication was suspended when the new owner could not meet his obligations to staff and Academy Press, which had printed the magazine for several years.

The suspension of the publication has been challenged in court by the former directors of the company. The case is still in court. The crisis that engulfed Newswatch led to the debut of Realnews and Verbatim newsmagazines. Realnews, the first online news magazine in Nigeria, thrives on investigative journalism, exclusive stories, to build a reputable and world class media institution whose watchword is professionalism and integrity. The magazine, which has Mike Akpan, as the editor-in-chief, and Maureen Chigbo, editor, is based in Lagos. Verbatim, a weekly news magazine, has Tobs Agbaegbu, as editor-in-chief, and Anza Phillips as managing editor.

This Day Newspaper office in Abuja
This Day Newspaper office in Abuja

Apart from the hurricane that blew away Newswatch from the newsstand, the unending assault on Nigerian journalists by security operatives continued in 2012. Some of the victims included, Ozioma Ubabukoh, a Punch reporter in Enugu, Enugu State, who was manhandled by the operatives of the State Security Service, SSS. The SSS operatives forced themselves into the car of Ubabukoh on December 15, on his way home from the office. They detained him in the car for several hours because they did not want him to write any story on the health condition of Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State. The security agents went to his apartment and made away with his Laptop, Black Berry handset among other things.

The case of Ubabukoh happened five days after Kazeem Ibrahim, a reporter with The Nation in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, was assaulted by SSS operatives after he was invited to cover the 50th birthday of Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State. Abubakar Sadiq Isah, of Daily Trust was also assaulted by the SSS in Abuja, November 14.

The police in Lagos are still searching for the whereabouts of Rasaq Lawan, aka Alhaji Giwat, a popular Islamic presenter on the NTA, who was declared missing since July. At a point, Babatunde Fashola, governor of Lagos State, announced a monetary reward for anybody with useful information that could lead to his whereabouts, but all to no avail. The office of This Day newspaper was bombed by a group suspected to be Boko Haram in Abuja in April.

Some journalists also received awards by the Nigerian Media Merit Award, NMMA, for distinguishing themselves in the practice of journalism in the year. Several journalists, including those in the print and electronic categories were honoured. One of such recipients of the awards was Maureen Chigbo, editor, Realnews magazine. She received awards in two categories. Others who also shined at the yearly event included, Emmanuel Uffot, Anthony Akaeze, and Chris Ajaero all former staff of Newswatch. Other journalists that won awards at the event held in Lagos on December 8, were Kemi Balogun of Vanguard newspaper, Goddie Ofose, of Daily Independent while Punch newspaper won the newspaper of the year award.

Several journalists including Chris Ajaero, formerly of Newswatch, also got a Media award at the DAME ceremony in Lagos on December 15. On the international scene, Carl Zimmer, a freelance journalist, was named winner of Kavli Science Journalism Award Competition. The award, which was instituted in 1945, was administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS.

— Jan. 7, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

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