Nelson Mandela has endorsed the David Astor Journalism Awards, calling them ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œa fitting and meaningful wayÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â to honour the late editor of The Observer newspaper who vigorously championed the anti-apartheid struggle and human rights, according to a media release.
The awards were established in 2006 to promote, strengthen and support independent
journalism in Africa. Run by a UK human rights charity, the scheme involves searching for
exceptionally promising early-career newspaper journalists, investing in their long-term
professional development, and building and sustaining a regional peer-support network.
MandelaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s endorsement follows the selection of the first three award winners ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ one each
from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ in January.
Two of the winners started temporary work placements at newspapers in London last week
as part of their award package. Murithi Mutiga, News Editor at Daily Metro in Kenya, and
Tabu Butagira, Senior Reporter at The Daily Monitor in Uganda, will spend three months
working at The Financial Times and The Times, respectively.
The Tanzanian award winner, Valentine Marc Nkwame, Senior Reporter at The Arusha
Times, will begin a three-month attachment at The Sunday Times in South Africa in
In his endorsement, Mandela recalls his long association with the British editor, in whose
honour The David Astor Journalism Awards Trust is named, and the determined efforts he
made ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ personally and through The Observer ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ to promote their liberation cause.
David Astor was one of the best and most loyal friends,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â the former South African President
said in a written statement. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œUnder him, The Observer supported the African National
Congress from the early years of apartheid, when we most needed it and when most
newspapers ignored it.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Fighting the injustice of the apartheid system was one of David AstorÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s greatest
preoccupations throughout his 27-year editorship, which started in 1948, and continued long
after his retirement from the paper in 1975.
Mandela recalled: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen I visited London in 1962, I was on the run. I met David for the
first time in his house, where he gave me wonderful encouragement and good advice, and
arranged for me to meet politicians.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen I was arrested later that year and began my long imprisonment, David went to
extraordinary lengths to arrange for me to receive books, which I passed on to other
prisoners, who shared my gratitude,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œDuring the years on Robben Island and in Pollsmoor I knew The Observer was continuing
to keep myself and my colleagues in the minds of the British people while our names were
banned in our own country,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
Paying personal tribute to the campaigning editor, who died in 2001 at the age of 89,
Mandela said: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI will always remember the generosity and loyalty of David, both as a friend
and supporter of our movement and South African democracy.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe David Astor Journalism Awards Trust honours his memory in a fitting and meaningful
way,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
Thirty-four locally nominated candidates from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are now being
considered for the second round of awards. Short-listed candidates will be interviewed in
September and an independent panel of judges will choose one winner in each country from
among three finalists by the end of this year.
There are no age, educational or minimum work experience requirements but candidates are
expected to be at an early stage in their career and must meet certain key criteria, including
solid commitment to the profession, continuing to work in Africa as their long-term career
goal, and maintaining the highest ethical standards.
In addition, candidates have to show some special talent and flair for journalism, and the
requisite qualities to succeed in the profession, such as independent thinking, courage,
determination and drive.
Each award winner initially takes part in a three-month professional development
programme tailored to their needs and interests, working with experienced outside
journalists, and then becomes a career-long member of the David Astor Journalism Awards
peer-support network. They also each receive a token cash award of $500.
The David Astor Journalism Awards Trust plans to expand the scheme beyond East Africa in
the future. Its overall objective is to build journalistic capacity in Africa to defend human
rights, promote good governance and further socio-political development.
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