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African reporter to get safety training before investigating modern slavery in Mauritania

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African reporter to get safety training before investigating modern slavery in Mauritania

Canada NewsWire

LONDON, ON, July 26, 2018 /CNW/ - A Togo-based freelance reporter and writer has won the Portenier Human Rights Bursary for 2018, the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma announced today. The $3,000 award provides hazardous environment safety training of the type generally given to news personnel covering armed conflict.

Ibrahim Falola, Portenier Bursary winner, 2018 (CNW Group/Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma)

Ibrahim Falola, from Benin in West Africa, will spend 6 months investigating modern-day slavery in Mauritania for major articles to be published internationally in English and French.

Slavery was officially abolished in Mauritania in 1981, but is still widely practiced, and the law is seldom enforced, Mr. Falola says. The only person convicted of owning slaves since a law came into effect received a 6-month sentence in 2011.  

"Slavery still persists in this Islamic country," Mr. Falola said. "The situation has even worsened. Thousands of people are affected. Reliable sources say there is currently a lucrative sale of slaves to rich clients based in the Arabian Gulf."

"A complex system has been set up to fuel this inhumane and barbaric felony. And many forms of abuse - verbal and physical – illustrate how the Mauritanian authorities harass, threaten, and silence both national and international press professionals involved in reporting the issue. Hostile environment training will help me cope with the dangers that I may face. So this is the best news I've ever received in my life."

The Portenier bursary is offered annually by the Forum. It is sponsored by Giselle Portenier, a Forum board member and internationally-renowned producer of documentaries exposing human rights abuses. The competition is organized in cooperation with the UK-based Rory Peck Trust, which provides hostile environment training bursaries and other assistance to freelancers around the world.

When the bursary competition was established in 2015, Ms. Portenier said: "Human rights abuses continue unabated in the 21st century, and human rights defenders worldwide need the support of journalists and documentarians to help them shine a light on these injustices. Some of the worst abuses are committed against women and children, sometimes as a result of war, but often systematically, in the name of culture and religion.

"The purpose of this bursary is to help ensure the safety of journalists and documentary filmmakers as they expose some of the most egregious abuses of human rights in the world today."  

The 2018 Portenier competition attracted 44 applications from independent journalists and documentary makers in 32 countries. Four other finalists were from Britain, Kenya, Russia and Somalia.  

"The independent jury had an extremely difficult task, having to pick a single winner," said Forum President Cliff Lonsdale. "The number of applications we receive for the Portenier is going up by about 50% each year. The need far outstrips our ability to respond."

Previous Portenier winners include two Toronto-based documentarists working in Brazil and Nigeria and an Egyptian photojournalist whose work documents sexual harassment and attacks against women in her country.

Giselle Portenier's latest film, In The Name Of Your Daughter, is a documentary that gives a voice to some of the most courageous girls in the world: Tanzanian children who risk their lives to stand up for their human rights and avoid female genital mutilation and child marriage. It had its African premier this month at the Zanzibar International Film Festival.

The Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma is a charity whose work is supported by The Globe and Mail, CBC News, Radio-Canada, CNW Group and by individual donors.

In addition to the Portenier Human Rights Bursary, the Forum Freelance Fund runs annual safety training bursary contests for freelance journalists covering news in dangerous places, including combat zones. Four winners of those bursaries for 2018 were announced in May.

Our thanks to Cision/CNW for sponsoring this announcement.

SOURCE Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma

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