“Pursuing independent journalism is more important than ever. Right now, we are not just facing one or two crises. The crises that journalists are facing are not binary, they are multi-dimensional.”
Yashraj Sharma was last year’s winner of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist of the Year at the Foreign Press Association (FPA) Awards held in London. As a young journalist, the judges were extremely impressed by his writing skills and his fantastic variety of stories. One of them included a sensitive but shocking story about female foeticide in India – the abortion of female foetuses.
His commitment to journalism has not been easy. At the age of 22, he took over the position of editor after Fahad Shah was jailed under anti-terrorism laws in Indian-administered Kashmir. Yashraj was then accused of inciting riots after reporting that a Kashmiri school was forced to celebrate India’s Republic Day. Like other journalists, Yashraj faced a travel ban, which meant he could not collect his award during the London ceremony.
Yashraj’s passion for journalism grew from watching VICE News at home in a small village in Rajasthan. “I thought that this is what I want to do with my life.” He went on to do an internship with the online news and current affairs outlet.
He has been inspired by VICE’s senior correspondent and producer, Isobel Yeung, for her coverage of conflict and humanitarian stories. Isobel’s journalism was also recognised at last year’s FPA Awards when she won Journalist of the Year. The judges praised her brilliant interviewing skills, calmly challenging people in power to account and her all-round journalism excellence. She equally congratulated Yashraj on his incredible work, excited to see what he does next.
The Thomson Foundation recently caught up with Isobel in London. We asked her what advice she would give to her younger self. “Be insanely curious about everything and think about local stories” she says.
Isobel spent time at the start of her career freelancing in China and across Asia, where she discovered there were stories everywhere.
Be insanely curious about everything and think about local stories
“My advice is to find stories with fresh angles that people are not looking into," says Isobel. "Local journalists know these stories better than anyone else and there is a wealth of knowledge to draw on and appeal to an international audience.”
In recent years, Isobel has covered a wide range of global stories for VICE, including from Syria, Libya and Yemen. She has huge respect for young journalists in emerging economies, as many are targeted for their work. She also recognises there is some incredible future talented journalists in the world.
The safety of journalists, especially online, is essential for press freedom and the flow of information to the public and governments alike. Isobel recommends keeping track of your digital footprint and for all journalists to be aware of the risks of cyber security. She suggests to always have someone else across what you are working on.
I believe in the value of international journalism and telling the truth in an interconnected world.
As a woman in the profession, Isobel has found it has helped to open doors, particularly in countries such as Afghanistan where she reported from a female-led delivery unit. But being a female journalist has bought challenges, especially when men do not want to talk to you precisely because you are a woman.
Isobel acknowledges how tough it is for any young journalist to succeed in the industry now, but stresses how important journalism is for a democratic society and a changing world.
"I believe in the value of international journalism and telling the truth in an interconnected world,” she says “We need to understand stories and not just accept how things are changing.”