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Africa: Winners of the First African Blog Award for Journalists Are…

The winners of Waxal – Blogging Africa Awards (BAA) have been announced. Waxal is an initiative of Panos Institute of West Africa (PIWA) with the partnership of Highway Africa and Global Voices Online (Sub-Saharan Africa). gv-waxal1

Waxal (pronounced WA-HAL), which means “speak” in Wolof, captures the essence of the evolution of the worlwide web as a platform for conversation and for raising marginalized voices. The first edition of the award recognizes the use of new media by professional journalists in Africa and by African media organizations working to promote the production of alternative information and citizen expression.

After reviewing the submitted blogs, members of the jury awarded four prizes corresponding to the three categories announced at the beginning of the contest and an additional special award of encouragement. The jury looked at blogs that illustrate good editorial line, quality of expression, interaction with users, originality, regular posts and a variety of format for content. 10 blogs have also attracted the attention of jury members.

The jury was made up of Dr. Lilian Ndangam, Cameroonian Media Professor based in Canada, Joel Phiri, Filmmaker and Multi-media expert from Zimbabwe and Fatou Jagne, Freedom of Expression and media expert. She is the Coordinator of Article 19 Africa. All jury members are bilingual.

And the winners are…

1. Best Journalist Blog (Francophone):
Cedric Kalonji from the Democratic Republic of Congo (he used to blog at www.congoblog.net blog). Cedric has been working for five years as a journalist for Radio Okapi:

I have been working for five years as a journalist for Radio Okapi (http://www.radiookapi.net) in Kinshasa. In 2005, I created a Blog on which I posted pictures and personal thoughts on ordinary daily life in Congo. More precisely, it all started in September 2005. At the time I was using a small digital camera that my mother had given me as a present. I posted my pictures and wrote captions to explain the content of the photos in more detail. (…) Very quickly I received comments and points of views from visitors, mainly from Congolese living abroad. At that time, there were very few pictures of Kinshasa on the Internet; this was a result of the 32 year-long dictatorship under Mobutu (…)I come from a country where most of the journalists are praising those in power, in order to receive protection and rewards. It is difficult, in that context, to be an independent journalist. You have to withstand strong criticisms and sometimes even threats. Thanks to the Internet, I can publish my articles without fearing the censorship that the ordinary newspapers are subject to. (…) My desire to share experiences of my daily life was driven by a deep need to express myself freely. Thanks to my Blog, I had the opportunity to develop a media of my own, and to talk freely on subjects that matter to me, without being censored. Nevertheless, I was and am very careful with my editorial line, and always take into account my own security.

He receives I million CFA Francs (about US$2,000).

2 – Best Journalist Blog (Anglophone):
Rosebell Kagumire, a journalist from Uganda. Rosebell works for the Independent newspaper. She blogs mostly about her job as a journalist:

I write mainly about my job as a journalist and also I comment on socio-political issues in Uganda and Africa mostly. I also write about opportunities that my colleagues can benefit from especially media related training. I write about conflict and the work I write in other media is always brought to feature on my blog. (…)Though very new my blog gives people my views about my life, my country and life generally (…)My interest in blogging is to express myself in sometimes ways that cannot be accepted in the media. I believe also it’s important for people and friend s to know my thought, principle and values which are all reflected in the different posts on my blog. I also think I can trigger discussion about many issues some of which I write about and others that are featured in the media for positive change. I get discussions going especially by posting my blog posts on facebook to share them with my colleagues. Through such discussion i get to know how the society views certain issues.

Rosebell receives 1 million CFA Francs (about US$ 2, 000).

3 – Best African Civil Society Organization’s Blog:
Lusaka Times, a news and discussion blog run by Zambians from around the world.

LT is an electronic news platform that allows all types of users to have an open discussion on the day to day current issues in Zambia. The idea that is powering Lusakatimes today was birthed in 1998 as a casual conversation between friends. In 1999, the idea was made manifest with the launch of Lusaka Information Dispatch. The project was funded by the Dutch IICD who provided seed capital for the equipment and operational costs for a limited duration. However, the operational model for Information Dispatch proved too difficult to sustain at the time. In 2002 Information Dispatch suspended its operation after key members quit the group. In January 2007, the site was re-launched under the new URL address called lusakatimes.com and a new operational model. Today Lusakatimes is run by a number of people distributed around the world, working in an open source type of structure, purely driven by hobby and ambition to provide Zambians around the world with current news content based on facts and not speculation. Our day to day news content comes from known Zambian sources like Zambia Daily-Mail, Times of Zambia, ZNBC and ZANIS. These are the giants whose shoulders we stand on. Our added value to the commodity called news is the speed with which we deliver it to our readers and the community, feeling and experience we have created around the news content on our website. Additionally, Lusakatimes also provides a platform for any Zambian who wants their article published, provided they take full ownership and responsibility of the content. The ability of our users to be able to read news and anonymously provide immediate feedback is something we have always highly valued from the Information Dispatch days. Lusakatimes.com was ranked as the most visited website in Zambia under traffic listing on Alex.

Lusaka Times receives 2 millions CFA Francs (about US$ 4, 000).

4. Special Panos Institute West Africa Prize for West Africa:
Israel Yoroba Guebo from Côte d’Ivoire. Israel receives 500 000 CFA Francs (about US$ 1, 000).

Below are blogs that received congratulations from the jury:

Category 1: Best French-speaking journalist’s blog (Non-hierarchical classification):
Edouard Tamba from Cameroun
Ramata Sore from Burkina Faso
Basile Niane from Senegal

Category 2 – Best English-speaking journalist’s blog (Non-hierarchical classification):
Emmanuel Onyango from Tanzania
Conrad Dube from Zimbabwe
Khaya Dlanga from South Africa.

Category 3 – Best African Civil Society Organization’s Blog (Non-hierarchical classification):
Penplusbytes’ blog that covered 2008 elections in Ghana
REgul-Telco-Afrik from Senegal
20mai.net from Cameroon
Remastp News

Other blogs captured the attention of jury members individually, but were not unanimously selected for different reasons:

Remmy Nweke from Nigeria,
Martin Aihonnou from Benin
Nadine Kouamouo-Tchaptchet from Côte d’Ivoire
Vusi Gumede from South Africa
Khaya Dlanga from South Africa
Shashank Bengali from Kenya

The winners will receive their prizes at a special event in Dakar, Senegal on March 9th 2009.

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