Africa Media Development Foundation congratulates Dapo Olorunyomi, the CEO, and publisher of Premium Times on his international press freedom award by international press freedom watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Olorunyomi is the only African among the four courageous journalists the CPJ will honour with the 2020 International Press Freedom Awards. The other three are from Bangladesh, Iran, and Russia.
According to CPJ all the award recipients have been arrested or faced criminal prosecution in reprisal for their journalism work.
No doubt, Olorunyomi deserves this honour owing to the fact that he entrenched in Premium Times the culture of thoroughly investigating stories before publication. Of course, this has not gone well with Nigeria authorities and has led to several raids on the offices of Premium Times.
His investigative works in the past, especially during the military era will not be easily forgotten, as they have led to his arrests by military regimes. This forced him to flee out of the country to USA in 1996, with the support of CPJ and Amnesty International.
In an interview with American Journalism Review, Olorunyomi said, the duo “initiated contact, secured funds for my escape and arranged for legal documents so I could come to the U.S.”
Olorunyomi is the founder of two media development organisations, the Lagos-based Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, and Abuja-based Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism.
A statement on the CPJ’s website states, “Like brave and committed journalists everywhere, CPJ’s honorees set out to report the news without fear or favor for the benefit of their communities, their country, and the world,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. “They understood that they would confront powerful forces, enemies of the truth, who would try to stop them from doing their work. What they did not foresee was COVID-19. The global pandemic has not only made their jobs more difficult and dangerous, it has fueled a ferocious press freedom crackdown as autocratic leaders around the world suppress unwelcome news under the guise of protecting public health.”
Lanre Idowu, supervising trustee of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence, has once described Olorunyomi as a “leading light in the search for meaning and morality in the media,” and a “study in industry in the determination to widen the scope of citizen engagement in public discourse.”
Previous Awards and Recognitions Received by the awardee
- Diamond Award for Media Excellence’s Lifetime Achievement Award by Diamond Publications (2017)
- Hellman Hemmett grant of the Human Rights Watch (1996)
- Press Freedom Award of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) New York, U.S.A (1996)
- PEN Center (West) Freedom to Write Award (1996)
- International Editor of the Year Award by the World Press Review (1995)
AMDF expresses satisfaction on this well-deserved award. This goes to show that despite the increasing incidences of press freedom violations in Africa, journalism will continue to play the role of the fourth estate of the realm and keeping government on its toes.