Nigerian journalist Tobore Ovuorie has been awarded the DW Freedom of Speech Award 2021, marking the seventh year the German international broadcaster has presented the award for outstanding commitment to human rights and particularly, freedom of expression in the media.
"I am so honoured that my work has been recognized in this way by DW. It means so much to me that the work I am so committed to give a voice to women without a voice and speaks to others as well. I hope that this recognition of my work can serve as an inspiration for girls and women to be more, especially to follow the path of research in journalism," said Ovuorie upon receiving the award.
DW Director General Peter Limbourg: "I think when someone puts themselves in danger like this to find out the truth, it is worthy of all respect. In her research, Tobore Ovuorie moves far beyond the journalistic comfort zone and also has to deal with people who are dangerous. I think it's very remarkable when journalists do that to shed light on wrongdoing."
Nigeria is ranked 120th out of 180 countries in Reporter Without Borders' 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
After years of research, journalist Tobore Ovuorie went undercover, posing as a would-be sex worker in the human trafficking mafia in Nigeria – a multi-billion dollar business that spans countries and continents. During her life-threatening research, she witnessed illegal monetary transactions, corruption, violence, abuse and even murder.
Ovuorie has worked as an investigative journalist for leading publications in Nigeria for about ten years. In 2014, her most renowned investigative report to date was published. The widespread human trafficking ring uncovered by Ovuorie was involved in transnational sex trafficking, as well as organ trafficking. Following the journalist's revelations, Nigeria's authorities launched criminal investigations into those behind it.
In 2016, she published the book "I am not to be sold" as part of the Media Initiative Against Human trafficking and Women's Rights Abuse (MIAHWRA) for children and youth to educate them about human trafficking and prevent them from becoming victims. Ovuorie's research served as a blueprint for the Netflix film "Òlòturé" which follows a young Nigerian journalist who works undercover to expose the dangerous parallel world of human trafficking.
"It's about the danger that comes from human trafficking in general. And I think it is very important that we draw attention to the consequences that this has not only for the people affected, but also for the societies from which these people stem. And it has a direct impact on Europe, the destination of the smugglers. That's another reason why this is a very important topic," says DW Director General Limbourg. "Our prize is meant to underline how important investigative journalism is. We want to award Tobore Ovuorie for her important investigative work and also to strengthen journalism in Africa. It's very important to recognize the authoritative role of women in journalism."