Child brides in Vietnam sold for “less than the price of a buffalo” in China, once-ostracised transgender candidates now running for Pakistan's parliament, Ghanian youths and the alarming rate of drug abuse, and the guards soliciting bribes from visitors and detainees in Liberia’s prisons. These are among the stories that have made the shortlist for the sixth Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award.
In partnership with the UK Foreign Press Association (FPA), the award enables journalists aged 30 and under, from countries with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of less than $20,000 (data from the World Bank), to send in their best stories. Their work is then scrutinised by a judging panel at Thomson Foundation and then by independent FPA judges.
A remarkable number of entries arrived from all over the world for this year's competition – Burundi to Bulgaria, Ethiopia to Ecuador and the Philippines to Palestine. Each entrant needed to submit a portfolio of three published pieces of work produced in the 12 months preceding the deadline for submissions which was August 17th, 2018.
Thomson Foundation judges pored over the entries and selected the shortlist based on criteria including originality, endeavour, interest to audiences, and the anticipated or actual impact of the story after publication or broadcast.
As with previous years, some of the entrants were further into their respective careers than others, yet they all shared the viewpoint that it’s a journalist’s job to mainstream marginalised voices and nurture journalism’s public interest role in democracy.
Among the shortlist of 12 were young and aspiring journalists speaking up on a variety of matters – corruption or abuses of power among the political elite, social injustices but also social cohesion and bringing people together.
The stories submitted each year provide us with an extraordinary window on the world.
All 12 shortlisted entrants cast a light on important issues or events which otherwise would have gone uncovered. Each of the entrants will receive a certificate from Thomson Foundation commending them on the high standard of their work, and will have the opportunity to participate in the foundation’s digital learning platform, Journalism Now.
Stories include a two-part reporter’s diary exposing the myriad of corruption perpetrated by officials of Nigeria Immigration Service. The story was a major policy changer in passport issuance in Nigeria.
Submissions include a report on enforced missing persons in Sri Lanka, a major issue in war accountability after the end of three decades of conflict in the country. Tamil families alleged their children and relatives who were handed over to military forces were still missing.
One of three stories submitted by Yen includes the young Vietnamese women who were being trafficked to China and sold as brides or to brothels where they were forced into prostitution, and of the mothers whose daughters are still missing.
People seeking reparations for the atrocities they suffered during the insurrection of the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Party was one of the stories submitted by Dimuthu. Since the article, the Reparations Bill was presented to parliament, initiating the process of granting people long-awaited reparations.
One of Sabrina's stories looked at the challenges transgender citizens face in claiming their seat in government. It was the first story in Pakistan to highlight the obstacles encountered by the transgender community at polling stations, which are segregated by gender.
An investigative piece by Valeriya exposed potential corruption of officers of the Security Service of Ukraine, where official salaries and property declarations of staff did not correspond with luxury living standards. Before the broadcast, there was an attempt to stop the release of the story.
Alisa's investigative report 'Black Album' highlighted ongoing violations that took place during the elections in Russia in 2016. The article drew the attention of Ella Pamfilova, the chairperson of the Central Election Commission, who received the results of an investigation. Nine employees of one of the election committees were fired. Link to English translation here.
Stories include a report on the HIV-positive fathers who cause suffering to their children and their spouses due to being silent over the infection, and the deep-rooted cultural traditions that have kept alive child marriages, despite it being criminalised in Egypt. Link to English translation here.
One of Saaliq's submissions was the story of photojournalists in Indian-administered Kashmir, usually the first responders of a breaking-news situation in one of the world’s largest militarised zones. Twenty-one journalists have so far been killed due to the conflict – either directly targeted or caught in the crossfire.
Stories include a report of children in rural Ghana who were forced to lie on their stomachs with their elbows pressed against hard floors in ill-equipped classrooms for eight hours a day. It started a national debate on quality education and led to people making donations for desks and other learning materials.
One of Asad's stories was about the abduction of 24 Christian men by law enforcement agencies in Karachi, Pakistan. Christians in Pakistan are often a target for harassment by the police. In this case, the police were attempting to frame the men for crimes they hadn’t committed so that specific crimes could be listed as “resolved”.
One of Bettie's stories received the attention of the Independent Human Rights Commission and UNDP, a development partner to accessing Justice in Liberia, after she exposed the ongoing corruption at Monrovia Central Prison where visitors and inmates were being forced to pay bribes.
Independent judges at the FPA will select their three finalists from the 12 entrants on the shortlist – to be revealed in October – who will be vying for the coveted Young Journalist Award on 26th November at the prestigious FPA Awards gala dinner in London.
For more information on how the Young Journalist Award works, please see our competitions section. The competition will reopen in July 2019.
Above image: courtesy of Yen Duong, from her story 'From Vietnam, Without Love: The Child Brides of China'
Channel 4 News' Jon Snow picks up the Special Recognition Award for Syrian filmmaker, Waad Al Kateab
30 seconds with Thomson Foundation's Young Journalist 2016 winner, Yousra Elbagir from Sudan
Young Journalist 2015 finalists attend the Foreign Press Association Awards gala night in London