Stephen’s tenacity and natural curiosity lead to this series of high impact stories about female victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Working with his first class network of contacts at Sciaf, Stephen became acutely aware of the deepening issue and was sent to the country to investigate the women’s experiences. Following the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the spread of violent groups into eastern DRC, heavily armed groups have terrorised the population. Sexual violence there is a major problem. A series of exclusive stories ran each day for a week across the Daily Record and Sunday Mail, two of Scotland’s largest newspapers and news websites. They revealed a chilling litany of sexual and gender-based violence, witchcraft, slavery, abuse and exploitation. Sensitive research, reporting and fact checking in extreme conditions in one of the world’s most dangerous countries lead to high quality, human rights journalism which would make any media organisation proud.
These high impact stories were disseminated across print, online and social media to a potential audience of more than 70 percent of all Scottish adults – around 3.1 million people. With an extended reach outside of Scotland, the total audience rises to over 10 million unique browsers online and over 5 million adults. Many of the print readers will be from an older demographic who are possibly less likely to be well informed about human rights issues. The stories also set that week’s news agenda and were also followed up by local and national newspapers and broadcasters. The series lead to one of the interviewees coming to Scotland to further raise awareness of human rights issues in the DRC. The Daily Record and Sunday Mail’s stories spearheaded a campaign which raised more than £1.5m for medical care, trauma counselling, legal aid to seek justice, vocational training, and help to set up small businesses. The campaign also helped to support a more responsible minerals trade, contributing to the collation of vital information on violence against women and children in the mining sector.