Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye Accepts the Knight International Journalism Award

As I stand on this stage tonight, I am filled with joy and grateful to God. I thank the International Center for Journalists for this noble recognition that is given to only the most remarkable and dedicated journalists.

This honor does not belong to me alone. The Knight International Journalism Award belongs to journalists all over the world who sacrifice their lives, time and families to make the world a better place.

If one of us is honored, all of us are honored. If one of us is killed, all of us suffer.

This award also is for my family - my father, mother and siblings – for being supportive and sharing me with everyone. Thank you for always understanding the demands of my job when I cannot be with you during Christmas and every other holiday.

On occasions when you felt my life was in danger because of some stories I have written, rather than discourage me, you constantly ask me not to give up because you feel my job is important to you and the people of Nigeria.

And the Knight Award belongs to Punch, Nigeria’s most widely circulated newspaper, to my mentors and to all of the people who have been my source of strength and inspiration.

After years of government persecution, I see this prize as a just reward for Punch's dedication to our readers. It is an acknowledgement of our commitment to objectivity, ethical conduct and fairness and our belief that we work in the public interest.

I would like to thank Punch's managing director and editor-in-chief, Mr. Ademola Osinubi, and Mr. Adeyeye Joseph, the controller of publications, who are both here tonight, supporting me as they have always done. These leaders of journalism in Nigeria and Africa have shaped my life and career.

They gave me the opportunity to become the first female editor in Punch newspaper’s 43-year history. After I became the Sunday editor, another woman was made the Saturday editor. It’s the first time a national newspaper in Nigeria has two female editors at the same time.

This is a major feat in a country like mine, where there are less than four female editors in the print industry overall and editorship has been preserved for men – up to now.

Often, people ask me how gender has affected my job as an investigative journalist. It’s been both positive and negative. Women, men and children often find it easy to trust me with details they hold very dear. At the same time, some people try to take advantage of me, thinking that because I am a woman, I am weak. It doesn’t take long for them to find out the truth.

I must say that most of my biggest cheerleaders are men. Men like my father, who thinks his daughter can do anything; men like my bosses, mentors and colleagues, who believe that gender is not an impediment to journalistic growth.

At a moment like this, all of the stories I have written in my 11-year career flash through my mind. Many were possible BECAUSE I am a woman.

Visiting medical clinics with a sick child to report on the poor condition of the facilities; revealing poor sanitary conditions in public schools, among other risks I have taken, have been worth it.

I’m hopeful that a time will come when journalists in Nigeria and other parts of the world will not have to risk their lives to make their societies better.

I am glad that I have been able to make changes in my small way:

Better sanitary conditions in public schools - The prosecution of some corrupt people - A new ward for sick babies - And a cleaner environment for citizens.

I thank God for giving me the chance to make a difference in the lives of Nigerians. That is what journalism is about: putting smiles on the face of people that count on us to make the world a better place.

To everyone in this room, thank you for being a champion for what is right. Thank you for supporting journalists all over the world.

Now I know the best way for me to say thank you to ICFJ and to everyone who has made me a better journalist is to keep fighting for the defenseless and continue serving as the voice of the voiceless.

Every day. Every time.

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