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26 Oct 2016Birmingham academics triumph in prestigious African journalist competition

Dr Yemisi Akinbobola and Professor Paul Bradshaw from the institution’s Birmingham School of Media, along with journalist Ogechi Ekeanyanwu, have been recognised for their investigation in to football player trafficking in West Africa.

They were presented with the Sport Reporting Award at a Gala Award Ceremony held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday 16 October. 

Their report highlights the plight of the 15,000 aspiring footballers from West African countries such as Nigeria and Cameroon, who try to realise their dream of playing for a top flight European club each year. 

In doing so, many fall victim to fake agents, enduring perilous journeys across Africa and the Mediterranean, as well as costing their families thousands of dollars and ending up destitute themselves. Less than one per cent of those who enter this process actually achieve their footballing dream. 

The independent judging panel, chaired by South African journalist Ferial Haffajee, highly praised the Birmingham academics in their citation: 

“This is a very powerful and compelling story about the plight of aspiring footballers in Nigeria, who become victims of unscrupulous agents who exploit them with the promises of brilliant future careers in Europe, but then abandon them, left to fend for themselves in foreign lands. 

“It is a story written in a very clear format, also demonstrating the reporters’ effort to cover all facets of the issue, including contacting the federations of the countries where the young footballers were supposed to be taken to. The illustrations are equally good and complement the written story in a very significant way.”

 The CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2016 competition is open to African professional journalists who have produced a story made available in print or broadcast on TV, radio or online. Stories are judged in a variety of categories including African culture, news impact and press freedom.

 This year, the competition received over 1,600 entries – a record number – from 38 countries across the continent. Prior to the awards ceremony, the finalists enjoyed an all-expenses paid four day programme of workshops, media forums and networking in Johannesburg.

 Dr Yemisi Akinbobola is the founder and publisher of IQ4News, which produced the trafficking story, before it was published in Nigeria’s ‘Premium Times’. 

From Nigeria herself, Dr Akinbobola was awarded an MA and a PhD from Birmingham City University, and is today a visiting lecturer and researcher at the institution, with an interest around digital journalism and African feminism. 

Dr Akinbobola said: 

“Winning our category was an absolute dream come true. In my acceptance speech I highlighted the need to recognise the challenges that African women in the media face, particular those, like myself, with young children. 

“During the media forum the day before the award ceremony there had been various heated discussions that, while more African women are finding themselves 'at the table' in the media industries across the continent, they still do not have much of a voice. This is why I accepted the award on behalf of all female African journalists. Much of my research in the coming years will be focused on African women in the media”.

 As well as leading the MA course in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, Professor Bradshaw has an international reputation for developing online journalism. He has been featured on both Journalism.co.uk’s list of leading innovators in journalism and media, and the US-based Poynter Institute for Media Studies’ list of the 35 most influential people in social media.

Yolisa Phahle, CEO of South African TV channel M-Net, congratulated the winners of this year's awards: 

“Thank you to each of you for telling the stories of Africa and its people to the world. We’re proud to play a role in amplifying your voices and the voices of other journalists across the African continent.”

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