From Where We Are

Reuters team wins Selden Ring award for their piece ‘Nightmare in Nigeria’

Reuters’ ground-breaking story covers actions taken by insurgency group Boko Haram against women

Grey building with windows and the logo of Thomson Reuters on the front

The 2023 Selden Ring investigative journalism award was highly contested. This year 86 investigative journalism entries came in from across the country. Chosen by a team of judges, the Selden ring was awarded to Reuters for their work “Nightmare in Nigeria.” Nicki Berelson has the story on this years winning team.

The Selden Ring award was created by businessman and philanthropist Selden Ring. He believed, in the aftermath of Watergate, that investigative journalism would save the United States. 34 years into the future, it is lauded as a spotlight that highlights investigative journalism’s impact locally, nationally and globally.

This year, Annenberg gave the $50,000 prize to Reuters’ reporters: Paul Carsten, David Lewis, Reade Levinson and Libby George for their filmed and written work “Nightmare in Nigeria.” This report described the Nigerian military’s secret abortion program that forcefully terminated the fetuses of women impregnated by the Islamist insurgency group Boko Haram. This forceful program resulted in the death of thousands of children of which the team covered.

But the real story is how the Reuters’ investigative team’s found the story. The idea of women caught in the crossfire of a violent political power struggle started with a reporter who was originally on a different story and a source whose information led to something more.

Reuters editor Julie Marquis received the award on behalf of the Reuters team. She talked about this coincidental discovery.

MARQUIS: The reporter who found out about this story was actually working on something else related to the military. He was having a conversation with the contact and he a half facetiously, but half because he really understood the subject, asked, you know, what what is the army army doing, aborting children?

This led the team to dig deeper. With the reporters knowing that the Nigerian military wanted to root out Boko Haram, reporters started to discover exactly how: by terminating pregnancies and young children born from insurgents.

Marquis highlighted how even if they were not expecting a response, they looked into it regardless.

MARQUIS: And how do we know we wanted to pursue it fully? We had to. You know, obviously, this was a jolting lead. And so we switched gears immediately.

The team’s determination to deliver the stories of women who were enslaved by Boko Haram and whose children were killed by the Nigerian military, was a driving force from start to finish. Reporters Carsten, Lewis, Levinson and George wrote for the women fighting a battle that was forced upon them.

But with such a delicate story the team had to approach it with care. Despite protecting their sources being primary concern, they didn’t let the themes of the story hinder their coverage.

MARQUIS: We wanted everyone to know what was going on in Nigeria and we didn’t pull any punches with that. We weren’t going to we didn’t sit around thinking, oh, we shouldn’t include this because it’s going to repulse or frighten people. I mean, we thought the world needed to know precisely what was going on. What we what we were most concerned about was the safety of our sources. And we were afraid that there might be backlash on that...Obviously, these these stories were, you know, more harrowing than most of us had ever worked on before. But but that in no way kept us from pursuing the story.

For their bravery and even more so, the sources’, Reuters received the 2023 Selden Ring. The reporters continue to cover the unfolding story of the Nigerian military’s brutal treatment of women and the global response to the conflict.