Psychiatric Hospital ‘madness’ wins Anas another award

Ace investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas of the New Crusading Guide has added another honour to his name by winning the second prize at the Forum for African Investigative Reporters Awards (FAIR) 2010 dubbed ‘The Africa Pulitzer’ held in Johannesburg, South Africa last week.

The story that won him the coveted prize is his 7-month investigations into abuse, scant attention to inmates and crime at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital otherwise known as the Mental Hospital.

The award is Anas 34th internationally for his journalistic work.

He had reported bad management practices, food theft, drugs trafficking and drugs sales from within Accra’s psychiatric hospital.

He had to check himself in as a psychiatric patient to enable him gather evidence, and went as far as taking some psychotropic drugs when doctors prescribed these to the ‘patient’.

Speaking at the African Investigative Journalism Conference in Johannesburg, venue for the Awards ceremony held last week, Anas told an amazed audience how he had been in touch with doctors outside the mental institution who had ‘put him right’ after the psychiatric treatment had had detrimental effects on him.

The resulting documentary went on to push the Ghanaian government to investigate the hospital and make sweeping management changes.

For his prize, Anas received an undisclosed sum and a certificate.

Nigerian Emmanuel Mayah on the other hand travelled thirty-seven days undercover through the Sahara desert as a trafficked migrant. During this time, he unearthed, recorded and photographed extreme human rights violations committed by traffickers against the trafficked persons, most of whom were women.

He unearthed the existence of slave labour in salt mines along the way. The slaves, who had paid for ‘passage to Europe’, had simply been abandoned there without any means to contact relatives or return home. Mayah, who also discovered and reported on complicity from within government -and even anti-human-trafficking structures- , received the first prize in the FAIR Awards.

It was the second time running that Mayah has won the award after he won it in 2009.

A special mention went to Namibian John Grobler, who had worked for more than a year on an investigation into the looting of tourism resources by some within the country’s governing elite.

The result from painstakingly searching for and going through heaps of company and government documents, was a story and a diagram that clearly showed how once profitable resorts had fallen into the hands of individuals who had only obtained them to enrich themselves, to the detriment of the country’s tourism revenues.

“We have to praise paper chasing together with the undercover work”, Awards presenter and FAIR Advisory Council member Nixon Kariithi said as he handed over the Awards. “Together they are a powerful tool for improvements in society.”

The Editors’ Courage Award went to Kenyan Standard editor John Bundotich, who had withstood pressure from government and intelligence services who had warned him not to publish an investigation into election fraud by the governing party.

Bundotich however had defended the story, researched and written by reporter Kipchumba Some, and went ahead to publish it nevertheless.
By: Ohemeng Tawiah, Johannesburg-South Africa

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