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Soyombo won the award for his undercover investigation on Nigeria’s criminal justice system funded by TheCable and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR). Now a freelance journalist, Soyombo spent two weeks in detention — five days in a Police cell and eight as an inmate in Ikoyi Prison — to track corruption in Nigeria’s criminal justice system, beginning from the moment of arrest by the Police to the point of release from prison.
To experience the workings of the system in its raw state, he adopted the pseudonym Ojo Olajumoke and feigned an offence for which he was arrested and detained in police custody, arraigned in court and eventually remanded in Prison.
The judges — comprising Tina Rosenberg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist; Christiane Amanpou, CNN’s Chief International Anchor; Jeremy Bown, BBC’s Middle East Editor; Lindsey Hilsum, International Editor of Channel 4 News; Peter Maass, Senior Editor at The Intercept; and The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson — commended Soyombo’s “vivid and compelling three-part series” which exposed “the everyday corruption and abuses of Nigeria’s criminal justice system”.
This was the third time in six years, the others being 2014 and 2016, that Soyombo had been short-listed for the Kurt Schork awards, which recognise excellence in courageous reporting of conflict, corruption, human rights transgressions and other related issues.
Pakistani journalist Shah Meer Baloch and Syrian journalist Kamiran Sadoun were also named winners of two other categories — Freelance and the recently-introduced News Fixer award — respectively. The three winners will each receive a cash prize of US $5000.
Nigeria’s Philip Obaji was among the eight finalists for the Freelance category won by Baloch, while TheNation Newspaper’s Olatunji Ololade, one of Nigeria’s most decorated journalists, was a finalist in the Local Reporter category won by Soyombo.
The latest international recognition for Soyombo is a continuation of a stellar year for the investigative journalist, who, this year alone, has either won or been short-listed for the Fetisov Journalism Awards (Outstanding Investigation category), the West Africa Media Excellence Award (Investigative Reporting category), the WJP Anthony Lewis Prize for Exceptional Rule of Law Journalism, the One World Media Awards (International Journalist of the Year category) and the People Journalism Prize for Africa (PJPA).
Soyombo, a three-time winner of the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting, has won numerous other awards at home and abroad.