Sama Tounwendsida Hugues Richard, a Burkina Faso based journalist for
L’Observateur Paalga : Quotidien d’Information du Burkina Faso  has been named the 2019 West Africa Journalist of the Year for his impactful reporting of mental health in Burkina Faso.

Richard was one of 21 finalists selected for outstanding reporting in the sub region to mark the West Africa Media Excellence Awards 2019 (WAMECA2019) which was held at Alisa hotel last Saturday(Oct. 19th 2019).

“I am honoured to have won this award,” Richard said. “So many people with mental disabilities are neglected and I knew that it was a story that needed to be told to humanize them.” Richard said

Richard’s story, sheds light on discrimination & abuse against people living with mental illness. A situation that has pushed natives of the Northern part of Burkina Faso to embark on a crusade since 2010 to restore dignity and chances of reintegration to those treated without regard.

“Generally everyone is fleeing people with mental illnesses” Richard told

“But the members of the association “Save the rest” have decided to dedicate their lives to care for the sick, abandoned by their own family. It’s something new. I wanted to highlight the humanitarian work of the members of the association and show that mental illness is not inevitable” he added.

Hugues Sama Richard, also won the best journalist for his story in the health category during the nights event.

When asked by about how the story impacted him, Richard responded that he learnt a lot about mental illness.

“The report changed my perception of the disease. I also learned that there are still people like the members of the association who have the spirit of solidarity and that with the will we can do many things” Richard continued.

“The price is not an outcome but an invitation to continue in the job well done”, he intoned.

The 2019 West Africa Media Excellence Awards received 724 entries from over 15 countries in West Africa. It was organized by the Media Foundation for West Africa(MFWA) with support from the U.S. Embassy Ghana, The Hewlett Foundation, Access Now, MTN, DW AkademieStanbic Bank Ghana and Alisa Hotel