By Magnus Effiong, Calabar
An international organisation, Safe Child Africa, in collaboration with the Calabar-based Basic Right Counsel Initiative (BRCI) has honoured the Deputy Bureau Chief of Guardian Newspaper, South South, Mr. Anietie Akpan, for his consistent reports on witchraft branding which had led to high degree of child abuse in Cross River and Akwa Ibom States.
The Award presentation ceremony, which took place at the NUJ Press Centre, Calabar, had many Journalists and veterans of the profession in attendance.
Speaking shortly before presenting the Award to Mr Akpan, the Principal Counsel of BRCI, Barr James Ibor, who represented Safe Child Africa, said Akpan was selected by the organisations after a thorough review of stories from Cross River and Akwa Ibom.on witchcraft branding,
“We have been documenting cases on witchcraft branding used for publication and so the Safe Child Africa and BRCI decided to do a review on reports from Cross River and Akwa Ibom.
Three names were outstanding and Incidentally, they all came from Cross River state. The names were Agba Jalingo of Crossriverwatch, Ike Uche of the Vanguard Newspaper and Anietie Akpan of the Guardian who emerged the winner.
“We are talking reports on witchcraft branding, reports that aimed at ending the practice of witch hunt. The reviewers considered the language used, effect and follow-up of those stories, consistency, in fact, a lot of things were put into consideration, Mr Akpan came on top.
He did not just come first, the gap was very wide, and for somebody who is based in Cross River tondo reports on something happening in Akwa Ibom and following such report up is highly commendable.
“No entries were called and he was not even aware because for every story that any of you write on witchcraft, it pups up in our system and theirs and it is downloaded and documented and that was what was used to do the review.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees of Safe Child Africa and Basic Right Counsel Initiative, which is their local partner, I want to congratulate Mr. Anietie Akpan for the Award of Excellent and to use this opportunity to encourage you not to discontinue but to sustain what you are doing. I also encourage other Journalists to continue to push the campaign to end witch hunt in Africa.” Ibor stated.
In his response shortly after receiving the award, Akpan said the award came as a surprise because he never entered into any competition.
“I am extremely humbled for this award. In the first place, I was doing a selfless job; I was not prompted by anybody. As far back as the nineties, I used to investigate stories on witchcraft stigmatization.
“Stigmatization was very common then, I was doing it out of love, out of passion and out of humanity to ensure that this wicked and dangerous practice is formally eliminated. I never expected any award.
‘Over thirty years I have been reporting on witchcraft practice, I have never been shocked like this before because I did not do any entry to win any award. One massage I have is that, whatever you are doing, be v/consistent, be passionate and do it with a sense of sacrifice.
“I encourage all Journalists not to be discouraged because one day you will be recognized and be appreciated the way I have been recognized and appreciated today. I thank Safe Child Africa and Basic Right Counsel Initiative for this honour,” he stated.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists NUJ Cross River State Council, Comrade Nsa Gill, in his brief remarks, congratulated the award winner for his dedication to the profession and making Journalists proud with the honour.
He also commended Safe Child Africa and BRCI for bringing the societal ill of witchraft branding to the barest minimum with their advocacy.
Described the winner as a core professional, Nda said “No one among the three nominated could have emerged as the winner other than Anietie Ben Akpan because we all, as a journalists, know his pedegree especially.in reporting child maltreatment, abandonment and witchcraft branding not only in Cross River but in the South South region,” he stated.