Three journalists – from India, and for the first time, Colombia and Malaysia – are the finalists for the 2021 Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award, in partnership with the UK’s Foreign Press Association. Between the three of them, they have racked up a raft of powerful, hard-hitting and emotionally intense stories. They’ve demonstrated bold dedication to journalism.
The troubled relationship between humans and the natural world is unravelled by Colombian journalist, Tatiana Pardo Ibarra, in her piece which tackles the controversial practice of shark finning – removing the fins from a shark and discarding the rest of the fish. The business, though illegal in Colombia, is so lucrative says Tatiana that “an estimated 100 million sharks are pulled from the ocean each year so their parts can be traded, leaving many species on the brink of extinction.”
She follows the work of scientist, Dr Diego Cardeños, as he sets out to track and monitor the global shark fin trade using DNA testing to genetically trace back which endangered species are being caught and trafficked, and how to recover and protect living shark populations.
Tatiana also exposes how beef sold in Colombian supermarkets is fuelling illegal deforestation in protected Amazon forests and how indigenous groups are experiencing an increase in violence, threats and harassment as criminal gangs seize their land to grow coca, the plant used to make cocaine, as well as for cash crops such as palm oil.
Kai Hui Wong, a 27-year-old Malaysian reporter formerly with the online news portal Malaysiakini, uncovers how a mining project, which involves the deforestation and excavation of 150 acres in the Som Forest Reserve, a known roaming habitat for several protected wildlife, is linked to family members of the current federal monarchy of Pahang state.
She also spotlights the royal links to another environmentally damaging project, this time the construction of permanent disposal facilities built by Australian mining company, Lynas, which has been the subject of heated protests over the years with claims of potential leaks of radioactive waste. Kai Hui also looks at Malaysia’s woeful record on transgender inclusion and how the community is shut out of the country’s healthcare system. Kai Hui interrogates these ideas and works to improve access.
Across India, villages are being emptied of husbands who set off to find work in cities but have still not returned. With many men now gone for years, their wives are left to run large households of in-laws and work on their farms, yet are mostly excluded from land ownership – this is more custom rather than law. “These women keep India’s rural farm sector running,” says journalist, Mahima Jain. “But they have no liberty, land rights or even the acknowledgement that they are employed.”
Through the story of Anita Kumari, from India’s Ujiarpur village, Mahima sets out to explore the male exodus and tackle the structural roots of women’s disempowerment and exploitation in rural India. “The story about India’s “left-behind” women combines well the context of the issue with intricate individual detail,” remarked one of the judges.
Elsewhere, Mahima confronts one of the most pressing and devastating issues of contemporary times. Violence against women is pervasive in India. Exacerbated by the pandemic, much of it – domestic violence, dowry deaths, honour killings, acid attacks, rape – is at the hands of family members. Through a series of personal interviews, Mahima offers a platform to domestic abuse survivors. She also spotlights India's farm laws and threats to agricultural biodiversity through a podcast.
Judging the shortlist for this year's award were Iñigo Gurruchaga, London correspondent for leading Spanish newspaper, El Correo, Niaz Alam of Dhaka Tribune in Bangladesh and Tinne Hjersing Knudsen of Danish broadcaster, DR.
“The judging panel found it a privilege to review such a wide and impressive range of work from so many inspirational journalists,” said Niaz in an email to the foundation.
We would like to congratulate the following journalists for making it into this year’s shortlist: Carmen Valeria Escobar Castillo, El Salvador; Zuha Siddiqui, Pakistan; Parth Nikhil, India; Samad Uthman, Nigeria; Shrouk Ghonim, Egypt; Daniel Lutaaya, Uganda; and Md Ibrahim Khalilullah, Bangladesh.
To see their work, click here.
Established in 2013, the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award, in partnership with the UK Foreign Press Association (FPA) pays homage to emerging journalists, 30 years of age and under, addressing some of the most important social and political issues of our time. The winner can be from any part of the world where the gross national index per capita is $20,000 or less, and the body of work submitted must have been published or broadcast during the 12 months preceding the deadline for entries.
The final round of judging is now underway. The external judges selected by the FPA are Dr Zahera Harb, director of MA International Journalism programmes at City, University of London; Sir Clive Jones, journalist and Thomson Foundation trustee; and Doug Wills, editor emeritus of the London Evening Standard and The Independent.
The winner of the Young Journalist Award and our special environmental prize will be revealed during the FPA’s media awards ceremony in London from 7.50pm GMT on 29 November, which will be live-streamed on our Facebook page. Both winners and the two runners up from the Young Journalist Award will receive £1,000 learning bursaries or funds to buy equipment.