Knight International Journalism Fellowships

Nigeria: Increasing Citizen Engagement With Health News

Babatunde Akpeji is expanding his vibrant citizen journalist network in the Niger Delta.

“Hala Nigeria: Many Voices, Better Lives,” an unprecedented project that brings together five Knight International Journalism Fellows to pool their expertise, will increase public engagement and amplify citizen voices in health news in Africa’s most populous country.

The project, which means “Speak Out, Nigeria,” is using new digital tools to spur citizen engagement and promote data-driven reporting to take advantage of Nigeria’s new open data movement. It is also organizing public events around key health issues and engaging citizen journalists to expand coverage into neglected regions.

The fellows are collaborating with a wide range of partners, including media organizations, academic institutions and health experts. Partners include:

Code4Nigeria, an open data initiative that connects government, media and civil society to ensure greater transparency and accountability by making official data available to the public.

Hacks/Hackers Lagos, a group of journalists and technologists who build and adapt tools that newsrooms can use to increase transparency and accountability. It will offer data boot camps and hackathons.

African Health Journalists Association (AHJA), a Pan-African network of journalists who cover health problems, policies and services. AHJA provides resources and training opportunities for health journalists across the continent.

Four members of the team are based in Nigeria:

  • Declan Okpalaeke, a veteran health journalist and trainer who is co-founder and director of AHJA. He serves as the lead editorial strategist and media trainer for Hala Nigeria. He will supervise a nationwide health story contest that will reward the best stories that engage the public. The top prize: Technology fellows will be embedded in the winning newsrooms to train journalists to use the latest digital and data tools.

  • Oluseun Onigbinde, the project’s lead innovator. He is creating and adapting digital tools to enhance public engagement. Onigbinde also is leading training workshops to ensure that journalists make the best use of new tools and resources. He is also linking journalists to technologists to promote ongoing collaborations that result in innovative media coverage of health problems and services.

  • Cece Fadope, a media consultant with extensive expertise in building partnerships and managing projects. She is leading a “listening campaign” to survey citizens, journalists and civil society organizations about their health priorities, enabling the project to focus on the issues that matter most to Nigerians. She also is organizing public events such as town hall meetings in collaboration with media organizations and other partners.

  • Babatunde Akpeji, a multimedia journalist who has built a vibrant citizen journalist network in the Niger Delta. He will expand the network, give its members new tools to engage other citizens, and connect their work to the broader Hala project.

The Fellows work in close collaboration with Knight International Journalism Fellow Justin Arenstein, who is based in South Africa and serves as chief digital strategist for ICFJ and for the African Media Initiative, based in Kenya. Arenstein was instrumental in launching Code4Africa in Kenya, Ghana and South Africa, and guided the creation of Hacks/Hackers chapters in 13 African countries. He has also launched the African News Innovation Challenge, a contest that provided funding for projects across the continent that are changing the way media organizations use data, engage citizens, tell stories and sustain themselves financially. The Knight Fellows working on the Hala Nigeria project are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


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