Chris Anyanwu | 1995 Courage in Journalism Award
The Sunday Magazine, Nigeria
One day while in solitary confinement, she was slipped a note by a sympathetic guard. It said:”Some women in America are giving you a prize. The world is watching.” Anyanwu told IWMF that after getting news of the award she thought, “Yes! Somebody must understand or else they wouldn’t just give out an award like this.” Anyanwu said she was very much encouraged and strengthened by it. “It made me confident and determined not to cave into pressure.”
Anyanwu’s reports were noted for their comprehensive in-depth look at important social and political issues. She was an influential journalist in Nigeria, and her colleagues considered her commitment to freedom of the press unwavering – even under challenging circumstances.
Since 1993, when presidential elections won by Moshood Abiola were annulled, the Nigerian press had been under constant assault, including suspensions of newspapers, attacks against news vendors, arson against independent newspapers and the imprisonment of journalists.
Most of the journalists detained had only been held briefly, but in mid-1995 this pattern was broken with the sentencing before a Special Military Tribunal of four journalists including Chris Anyanwu.
Anyanwu, the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Sunday Magazine (TSM), was detained on March 15, 1995 by three security officers in connection with the alleged coup-plot to overthrow the existing military regime. TSM ran stories which challenged the coup’s authenticity. Anyanwu was released on bail late March. However, she was rearrested on June 1, 1995. She was sentenced to life in prison in July that year. Three months later, the government announced that her sentence had been commuted to 15 years in prison.
After 1,251 days in confinement, Anyanwu was released in June 1998 following military dictator General Sani Abacha’s sudden death. She finally received her Courage in Journalism Award during the 1998 ceremony.
Chris Anyanwu is the first IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winner from Nigeria.