Ovuorie is the seventh laureate of the Freedom of Speech Award 2021. The award honors journalists' outstanding commitment to human rights and particularly, freedom of expression in the media.
"I am so honored 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 gives 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.
Undercover in the human trafficking mafia
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.
Tobore Ovuorie is currently reporting on COVID-19. Her career as an investigative journalist began with research in the health sector. Ovuorie continues to research on 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."
DW Freedom of Speech Award: The previous laureates
Since 1953, DW has been providing people around the world with access to news and information in numerous languages, promoting dialogue between cultures and communicating democratic values. DW has been underlining these values since 2015 with its annual Freedom of Speech Award. The first award winner was Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who is still imprisoned today. In 2016, Sedat Ergin, former editor-in-chief of the Turkish daily Hürriyet, received the award. The following year, the award went to the US-based White House Correspondents' Association, and in 2018 to Iranian political scientist Sadegh Zibakalam. In 2019, Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernández was honored, and in 2020 the prize was awarded to 17 journalists from 14 countries, representing media professionals worldwide who have disappeared, been arrested or threatened as a result of their reporting on the Corona crisis.
DW Global Media Forum: hybrid in 2021
The conferral of the Freedom of Speech Award is one of the highlights of the Global Media Forum, DW's annual international media conference. In recent years, the conference has been held at the World Conference Center in Bonn with around 2,000 participants from more than 100 countries each year. On June 14 and 15, 2021, discussions on the topic "Disruption and Innovation" will take place in hybrid form due to the pandemic. This means that participants from all parts of the world can join in and be part of the numerous inclusive discussions, debates and workshops.