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A Nigerian journalist, Mercy Abang, and three others have emerged recipients of the 2017 Dag Hammarskjöld Journalism Fellowships.

Abang is a syndicated freelance journalist reporting on issues facing vulnerable populations and had covered communities under siege from the Boko Haram terrorists as well as maternal health, poverty and biodiversity.

The three other journalists are Zeinab Mohammed Salih of Sudan, Mir Wais Jalalzai of Afghanistan and Ray Mwareya of Zimbabwe.

Salih is a freelance journalist for websites, mainly The Niles bilingual website sponsored by Germany.

Jalalzai, a war correspondent for the Khabarial News in Kabul, has covered the most dangerous conflicts and devastating events in his country.

Mwareya is the news editor for Women Taboos Radio Africa covering Southern Africa and a correspondent for Rural Reporters Africa based in Nigeria.

The Fund, on Wednesday, organised a dinner for the four fellows at the UN headquarters.

Ms Evelyn Leopold, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists, praised the exceptionalism of the four fellows out of the thousands of applicants for the fellowship.

Leopold, who highlighted the criteria for choosing a fellow, told NAN that the emergence of three of the 2017 fellows from Africa was unusual.

“We are looking for journalists who write well, who show some creativity, who do not just re-write the government press release, who are not censored by their media and come from developing countries.

“We try to rotate the countries, it’s very hard, we get like 7,210 applications – and so it’s a ‘crack game’ who to choose.

“And this year, we have the three Africans, that’s unusual and we have an Asian,” Leopold said.

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The Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Prof. Tijjani Bande, represented by the spokesman of the Mission, Akinremi Bolaji, said Nigeria was proud to be associated with Abang.

He said Abang’s emergence as one of the four recipients out of thousands of applicants was a positive achievement in addition to the many Nigerians who had distinguished themselves and had been recognised by the UN this year.

Speaking with NAN, Abang said she was interested in sustainable development goals of ending poverty and hunger and improving health and education.

Hammarskjöld, the second UN Secretary-General, was killed in a plane crash while on a peace mission to the Congo in 1961.

The Fund was established as a not-for-profit organisation more than 50 years ago by journalists at the UN as a living memorial to the legacy of peace, progress and justice of Hammarskjöld.

The Fund’s programme for journalists seeks to advance a fuller understanding of UN deliberations to alleviate human suffering and promote peace.

It is also to support and encourage the journalism profession and to inspire a strong and diverse community of journalists who would give voice to the challenges facing their countries.

Four journalists are selected each year and the award money varies, while the fellowship includes travel, accommodation and a per diem allowance.

The journalists, who are awarded fellowships, are given the opportunity to observe international diplomatic deliberations at the UN in order to gain a broader perspective and understanding of matters of global concern.

The fellows spend up to three months in New York reporting the UN General Assembly from September to December.

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