Investigation by former MPhil and team into Cameroon killings wins Royal Television Society award

Posted:
28 February, 2019

An investigation led by Emmanuel Freudenthal (MPhil in Development Studies, 2007) and colleagues into mobile phone footage of the brutal killings of two women and their children in Cameroon has won the 2019 Royal Television Society’s (RTS) News Technology award.

The footage, which went viral in July 2018, showed a group of soldiers leading away the women and children, who they accused of being part of Boko Haram, before blindfolding them and shooting them dead.

The footage appeared to have been filmed in northern Cameroon, but the country’s government dismissed the video as fake news and denied that the soldiers taking part were Cameroonian.

However the team, working as part of the BBC’s Africa Eye and with a group of amateur investigators on Twitter, used clues from the footage together with open source data and software to determine where and when the killings took place as well as the identity of the killers.

The team used satellite imagery and tip-offs to help pinpoint the location, clues such as the angle of the soldiers’ shadows and the presence of seasonal paths to determine the time of year, and details of weaponry and army uniforms to confirm that the killers were indeed Cameroonian soldiers. They also used Facebook profiles along with nicknames heard in the video and information from a military source to identify the soldiers involved.

The investigation itself, named Anatomy of a Killing, went viral on Twitter and was picked up by multiple news outlets.

While the investigation was taking place, the Cameroonian government announced that seven soldiers had been arrested, of whom three appear to be those identified by the team.

According to RTS, the judges described the report as ‘a superb piece of public interest journalism which held power to account and had a huge impact in social media’. The awards were announced on 27 February.

Emmanuel Freudenthal is a freelance investigative journalist based in Nairobi. He completed the MPhil in Development Studies at ODID between 2007 and 2009.

See the video report here.

Find out more about Emmanuel Freudenthal here.

Find out more about the RTS awards here.

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