Journalists win awards for reporting on Asian environmental issues

Melissa Chong Channel NewsAsia 17 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE: Environmental issues, from haze to typhoons, have dominated the news lately.

The journalists behind those stories were recognised at this year's Asian Environmental Journalism Awards on Thursday.

A total of 84 nominations poured in from the region -- a threefold increase from 2012.

The final 13 winners were top journalists, bloggers, news organisations and photographers from 14 countries, including China, India and Malaysia.

They reported on pressing environmental issues in Asia -- from elephant conservation to droughts.

The judges included Member of Parliament Lee Bee Wah, Satwant Kaur from the United Nations Environment Programme and Nominated Member of Parliament Nicholas Fang.

The award hopes to raise the standard of environmental reporting in Asia, recognising journalists who report on truthful, well-researched and pressing environmental issues.

The Singapore Environment Council, which organised the awards, said it hopes to make it the most prestigious environmental journalism award in Asia.

Bagging a merit award in the City Developments Limited (CDL) Environmental Journalist of the Year was MediaCorp's Today senior reporter Neo Chai Chin, who impressed judges with her fresh angle on transboundary haze.

She said: "I went to several communities, villages in Jambi and Riau, basically to get a different perspective of the haze and how it's affecting people on the ground, who are that much closer to the burning than us in Singapore.

"I hope readers get to see a bigger picture of the haze -- it's not just the air that we breathe… we're part of the bigger world out there."

South China Morning Post journalist Jing Li, who was the winner of the CDL Environmental Journalist of the Year, said: "There are some under-reported stories that are happening. Not in the city, but in the village.

"The cancer village I visited recently in April was shrouded in pollution from the nearby chemical industrial compound.

"Lots of people there are getting cancer. Most of the patients just pass away after one or two years. They don't even know how to protect themselves and fight for their rights."

The Environmental Story of the Year, sponsored by Coca-Cola, went to Stella Paul from the Inter Press Services for her account on how drought pushes rural Indian women into the city sex trade.

Two new award categories were introduced this year -- the Environmental Blogger of the Year and CITIC Telecom International Environmental Photograph of the Year. These went to Kavitha Rao and Sridhara KS respectively, both from India.

- CNA/ec

TODAY among winners of awards given for best Asian environmental journalism
Kenneth Cheng Today Online 18 OCt 13;

SINGAPORE — During the haze crisis in June, she ventured, not once, but twice to the hazardous fire zone in Indonesia to get to the bottom of the story. Her perseverance paid off at the 2nd Asian Environmental Journalism Awards (AEJA) yesterday, where TODAY senior reporter Neo Chai Chin clinched the Merit Award under the CDL Environmental Journalist of the Year category.

Pioneered by the Singapore Environment Council last year, the AEJA recognises exceptional works in environmental journalism in Asia.

The South China Morning Post’s Jing Li received the CDL Environmental Journalist of the Year award.

Her story on the emergence of “cancer villages” highlighted a public concern over the link between pollution and the rising incidence of cancer. In these villages, cancer is widespread and its people suspect it has to do with the pollution from nearby petrochemical plants.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said the recent haze was an example of how environmental journalists were pivotal in helping Singaporeans make sense of the crisis.

“Environmental journalists play an essential role, by providing timely information and well-researched perspectives on environmental issues and creating a ‘green’ consciousness throughout society,” he said.

Other merit winners from Singapore included photojournalist Douglas Ho from Singapore Press Holdings, sustainable-business website, and environment blogger and consultant Eugene Tay.

At the height of the haze crisis, Ms Neo, 31, flew out to Riau in Indonesia — where the highest numbers of hot spots were detected — to cover the issue.

She returned a week later and travelled to Jambi, also a smog-hit province, to look at sustainable farming methods used by farmers there in reducing the number of hot spots.

The experience, Ms Neo said, counts as some of the most memorable she has had as a journalist.

“Smoky air notwithstanding, it felt right to be close to ‘ground zero’, where the burning was taking place. It was definitely different from reporting from Singapore,” she said.

Her reporting stood out and resonated with the panel of judges.

“Her coverage of the haze went over and beyond what many were doing,” said Mr Jose Raymond, Executive Director of the Singapore Environment Council and an AEJA judge.

In other categories, Ms Stella Paul from India, who works for Inter Press Services, bagged the Coca-Cola Environmental Story of the Year.

The Guardian’s Kavitha Rao from India was named Environmental Blogger of the Year, while Sridhara KS netted the CITIC Telecom International Environmental Photograph of the Year.

The Lee Foundation Excellence in Environmental Reporting by a Media Organisation award went to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.