MFWA’s independent journalism project named in 10 best investigative stories from sub-Saharan Africa in 2021

An investigative report by Media Foundation for West Africa’s (MFWA) independent journalism project, The Fourth Estate, has been named among the best investigative reports in sub-Saharan Africa for 2021.

This comes barely a year when the MFWA established the non-profit, independent investigative journalism project.

The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), an international hub for the world’s investigative reporters, named the “The Licensed sex predator, an investigative piece by The Fourth Estate’s Editor-in-Chief, Manasseh Azure Awuni, among the top 10 best investigative stories from the continent.

The ten stories that made the list were selected from eight countries—Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Rwanda, Liberia and Uganda.

“This collection of 10 investigative stories across eight countries in Africa is a demonstration of what’s possible when reporters on the continent receive the right leadership and support,” the GIJN wrote.

In an investigation that lasted over a year, The Fourth Estate revealed how some women were sexually assaulted by a self-styled physiotherapist, “Dr” Jonathan Ohene Nkunim in his Nature’s Hand Therapeutic Centre.

“Dr” Ohene Nkunim’s victims included a couple who had gone to Nature’s Hand Therapeutic Centre, Gbawe, Accra in 2018 to seek his help to be able to conceive. He ended up sleeping with the woman. Feeling guilty about the affair, she confessed to her husband and that was how the seven-year-old marriage ended.

A young woman was on the verge of suicide because the heart-wrenching pain from her spinal cord convinced her that ending her life was a better option. Someone offered her a lifeline, Jonathan Ohene Nkunim’s hotline.

Ohene Nkunim raped her the first day she entered the facility in pain and lay on the massage bed.

He left incriminating evidence in his WhatsApp conversation with her after the ordeal. He admitted he did not seek her permission before having sex with her.

Nkunim claimed the procedure he wanted to perform required sexual arousal. He said he should have “sensitised” her before proceeding.  Nkunim then apologised profusely. But he did not stop.

Eulogising the story, the GIJN said:

“Ghana’s latest investigative journalism nonprofit, The Fourth Estate, created by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), was the force behind one of the most consequential investigations to come out of Africa this past year.

“Braving harrowing testimonies from victims and disturbing evidence from an undercover investigation, reporter Manasseh Azure Awuni exposed a health practitioner who used his registered practice to sexually assault women seeking reproductive treatment and support. The three-part series is one of those instances where an undercover investigation provides irrefutable evidence, despite denials by the perpetrator.

“Eventually, the overwhelming proof against that proprietor led to his arrest and confession, putting to an end to his exploitation of desperate victims.”

The GIJN described as “remarkable” the level of investigative journalism that emerged from sub-Saharan Africa in 2021 particularly at a time newsrooms in Africa were increasingly struggling with shortages of cash and threats to press freedom.

“For many of the eye-catching stories that made it to this year’s editor’s pick, the reporting time ranged from three months to a full year. This points to a growing ability by journalists in Africa to dedicate ample time — and, indeed, resources — to a single story,” it said.

But there is more to it.

“Several factors account for this strong dedication to in-depth reporting. First, nonprofit media outlets are helping fill the vacuum created by cash and resource-strapped traditional media organizations. Foundations and development agencies are also offering more consistent and more generous reporting grants, with greater opportunities for long-form investigations, even for freelance journalists,” it explained.

About The Fourth Estate project

The MFWA launched The Fourth Estate in 2021 as a non-profit, independent investigative journalism project.

The project emerged out of about three years of planning and brainstorming and is a response to the dearth of critical, analytical, in-depth, and independent journalism in Ghana and in many countries in West Africa.

The Fourth Estate project was established to focus on asserting the watchdog role of the media to promote transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption in governance through independent, fact-based journalism

The project prioritises quality investigative and in-depth reporting in the areas of governance, environment (especially climate change issues and the extractives sector), health, and human rights.

Read more about The Fourth Estate here.

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