CCIJ Round-Up: June 26

Your need-to-know news from CCIJ this week.

This week at CCIJ:

Winston Mwale reports on what’s at stake as Malawi goes back to the polls to elect a new president. Sonja Smith reflects on her experience with the organization as her first article in collaboration with CCIJ is released. Beninese journalist Ignace Sossou is released from prison.

Ignace Sossou:

CCIJ member and Beninese Investigative journalist Ignace Sossou was released on Wednesday after six months in prison for accurately reporting on governmental corruption and illicit financial flows Benin. In a tweet on Thursday, Sossou said, “I overcame this ordeal. I stand up. Thank you all. You have been my strength.” 

Emmanuel Dogbevi, Managing Editor of the Ghana Business News, discussed Sossou’s release in an Instagram Live on Friday. “It was clearly not a straightforward case,” he said of the charges against Sossou, adding, “What happened to Ignace can happen to anybody. Anybody, anywhere in the world, if we sit back and watch and do nothing.” 

The big picture

In a blog post this week, CCIJ Social Media Intern Abigail Goldberg-Zelizer talked with Dogbevi about how Sossou’s story is representative of a larger problem in West Africa: censorship. 

“It should be obvious to everyone observing developments in Benin that (Beninese President) Patrice Talon has no interest in sustaining the long-held principles of democracy, individual rights and freedom. Right at the beginning of his presidency, Talon clamped down on all activities of civil society and used the forces of the state to silence critics and groups demanding accountability, good governance, and the freedoms guaranteed under the country’s constitution.” –Emmanuel Dogbevi

Read the full blog post.

Dogbevi called for West Africans and others around the world to unite and protect the rights of the press and hold their governments accountable. 

Dying for A Drop

An expanded version of CCIJ member Sonja Smith’s groundbreaking work for the Namibian was shared on CCIJ’s website. In her piece, Smith tells the story of the dangerous lengths residents of Namibia’s Amarika are forced to go to, simply to collect water from the village’s wells. 

In a blog post for CCIJ, Smith reflected on her journey as a CCIJ member. 

“I am proud to be a part of the CCIJ community because as the media evolves in the future, journalists will need help if we are to tell the stories of ordinary people living on the margins of society,” she wrote. “This assistance will be an important buttress against a background of further declines in the resources of mainstream publications, broadcasters and freelancers like me.” –Sonja Smith

Read the full blog post
Getting the Story: A timeline

Summer of 2018: CCIJ began the process of applying for a grant from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) to fund journalists like Smith. 

March 2020: CCIJ helped to get the OSISA money to journalists just as COVID-19 arrived in Namibia and other African countries. Smith and the other grant recipients put their work on hold as a safety precaution. 

May 2020: The lockdown in Namibia ended and Smith began reporting again. 

June 2020: Smith’s story was published, originally with The Namibian and then on CCIJ’s website as part of the H2O Fail project. 

Malawi’s Presidential Election:

After the courts annulled Malawi’s May 2019 presidential election, the country went back to the polls on Monday, CCIJ member Winston Mwale reported for the CCIJ blog. 

In his piece, Mwale begs the question on the minds of Malawians right now: Will this new election help return the country to normalcy?

In Other News:

  • Khaled Suleiman was interviewed by the Jadaliyya about this book, “Guardians of the Water: Drought and Climate Change in Iraq.”

“My story with water is, in fact, the story of more than a billion people who are dealing with thirst today. It has a direct relationship with human nature. Specifically, the relationship between human beings and their environment, and the manner in which they organize that relationship.” –Khaled Suleiman 

Read the full interview here
  • CCIJ’s South African Hub Director Raymond Joseph published another installment in his ongoing investigation into the lottery, this time shedding light on the millions of dollars the National Lottery Commission paid to a “hijacked organisation.” 
  • CCIJ Social Media Intern Jane Johnston explored how Bangladesh’s refugee population is coping with Covid-19 on top of daily issues like lack of sanitation and the threat of monsoon season for Circle of Blue, a CCIJ partner organization.