13 May 2010

Tanzania: Freelance Journalist Wins Top U.S. Award

A U.S.-based global media network is to award a Tanzanian freelance journalist, Vicky Ntetema, for her courage in exposing the brutal killings of albinos and their families.

The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) has announced in Washington, DC, that she will receive one of its 2010 "Courage in Journalism Awards" at a ceremony later this year.

Ntetema went undercover in Tanzania to expose witchdoctors willing to kill albinos for their body parts. By posing as a potential customer, she discovered an organized black market in body parts. Customers were told the potions would bring them good fortune.

Witchdoctors are especially dangerous because they hold powerful positions in African traditional society, often use hired killers and are protected by local police and government officials, she reported.

Responding to the news of her award, she told the BBC: "I am worried that it is a year of elections and the witch doctors say politicians use the potions to try to make sure they win.". According to the BBC, some 170 witchdoctors have been arrested for the killings.

Ntetema has twice had to flee Tanzania because of her reports into the powerful networks behind the killings and still needs 24-hour protection, the IWMF reports. She still receives death threats from witchdoctors involved in the black market and is forced to go into hiding and wear hijab (a traditional veil) to disguise her identity.

The BBC states that many of Tanzania's estimated 17,000 albino people are living in fear, especially in villages in the north-west where most of the murders have occurred.

The IWMF gives the awards to "women journalists who have shown extraordinary strength of character and integrity while reporting the news under dangerous or difficult circumstances." Awards will also go this year to Claudia Duque, 39, an investigative journalist and correspondent for Radio Nizkor in Colombia, and Tsering Woeser, 43, a Beijing-based Tibetan freelance writer, blogger for the site Invisible Tibet and contributor to Radio Free Asia.


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