‘FISAYO Soyombo, an investigative journalist and former Editor of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), has received an honourable mention in this year’s Anthony Lewis Prize for Exceptional Rule of Law Journalism.
Announcing winners of the award in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, the World Justice Project (WJP) listed Soyombo among three individual journalists and three reporting teams “in recognition of their extraordinary reporting on rule of law issues”.
They are Helgi Seljan, Aðalsteinn Kjartansson and Stefán Aðalsteinn Drengsson (based in Iceland, reporting on Namibia); ICIJ’s Luanda Leaks investigation (organization based in the United States, reporting on Angola); Laura Sánchez Ley (based in Mexico); NBC’s Justice for All (based in the United States); and Somesh Jha (based in India).
Soyombo earned the recognition with his three-part undercover investigation on Nigeria’s criminal justice system part-funded and published by The ICIR in October 2019.
He had spent two weeks in detention — five days in a police cell and eight as an inmate in Ikoyi Prison — beginning from the moment of arrest by the police to the point of release from prison. Adopting the pseudonym Ojo Olajumoke, Soyombo feigned an offence for which he was arrested and detained in police custody, arraigned in court and eventually remanded in prison.
Soyombo is currently a candidate for One World Media’s International Journalist of the Year award to be decided on June 18, as are Alex Crawford of Sky News and John Sudworth of BBC News.
The WJP named the trio of Slovak journalists Pavla Holcová, Arpád Soltész and Eva Kubániová winners of the 2020 Anthony Lewis Prize for their reporting on the murder of their friend and colleague, the 27-year-old journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová.
The investigation, as detailed by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), revealed a system of rampant corruption in Slovakia, the details of which were being investigated by their colleague at the time of his death.
In the process of investigating the murder, the team assembled nearly 60 terabytes of data, including eyewitness testimonies, CCTV footage, mobile phone data and more, ultimately building a library of evidence that they shared with other trusted journalists.
As the team catalogued, analyzed and reported on the data — and as other reporters used it to develop evidenced-based stories in multiple outlets — they exposed not only a deeply corrupted and blackmailed justice system but also unmasked the perpetrators.
As a result of the investigations and mounting public pressure, the former government of Robert Fico stepped down in 2018, a former general public prosecutor is currently being investigated, and 13 judges are charged with corruption and abuse of power.
The WJP Anthony Lewis Prize for Exceptional Rule of Law Journalism was created to “acknowledge and celebrate journalists from around the world who have contributed to increased awareness and understanding of the importance of the rule of law”.
It was named in honour of Anthony Lewis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist who was a friend and inspiration to the World Justice Project. Lewis is widely credited with transforming legal journalism in the United States.