Yashraj Sharma is the interim editor of the online news portal of The Kashmir Walla. He is the winner of the Thomson Foundation’s Young Journalist Award 2022.
In the last 50 years, over 46 million forced abortions on women who carried daughters took place in India. Yashraj Sharma tells the story of the treatment of women in Indian society and tries to explain why this practice, which is still carried out, cuts through class and geographical divisions.
Sharma impressed the judges with his heart-breaking story ‘Families want a son at any cost: the women forced to abort female foetuses in India’, published in the UK in The Guardian. Through his powerful storytelling, Sharma tries to explain why this practice still continues.
"The violence against women is so deep rooted in Indian society that it is so rampant and even starts before a woman is born... despite there being laws to stop that in place, the practise is still very much followed across India,” explains Yashraj.
Yashraj is among a number of journalists who cannot leave Indian-administered Kashmir for legal reasons after the region’s special status was revoked in 2019. Journalists have faced travel bans and many, including Yashraj’s editor at The Kashmir Walla who is currently in jail, have been arrested under anti-terrorism laws.
Yashraj himself, who’s now the interim editor, has been accused of inciting riots after he reported that Kashmiri school children were being forced to celebrate India’s Republic Day. He's on bail which means he can’t leave the country.
Yashraj feels the responsibility and importance of independent journalism very keenly – as evidenced in his work.
“As history tells us, journalism is the most important part of any society or any civilisation. It empowers people, empowers us to hold elected officials or people holding powerful offices. We are able to hold them accountable. 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 in the world are not binary. They are multidimensional,” says Yashraj.
The shortlist for the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award is judged by an external panel from the Foreign Press Association Awards.
This year’s panel includes top journalists such as Michael Crick, a British journalist for more than 30 years, who was also founding member of Channel 4 News; Stryker McGuire, former senior editor at Bloomberg Markets; Megha Mohan, the BBC’s first gender and identity correspondent; and Chair of the FPA judges, Alessandro Allocca, a freelance journalist working for the Italian daily newspaper, La Repubblica.
The judges were impressed with the breadth of topics covered in Yashraj’s competition entries, praising his “ability to do so many different things really well, in many different ways”.
The sheer variety of his stories is just fantastic.
Another of Yashraj’s competition entries focused on how India’s ban on the video sharing platform TikTok pushed out working-class creators and those from marginalised communities in favour of aspirational ‘influencer’ content on Instagram.
“Tik Tok was comparatively a more democratic space of freedom. Those from marginalised caste and class backgrounds were able to make a living for themselves, so they were able to rise to become celebrities there,” explains Yashraj. “And after Instagram came into the market, they very tactically courted upper caste and class influencers.”
I want to dedicate and share this award with every journalist who finds themselves in prison today for their reporting and holding the power accountable.
In partnership with the UK Foreign Press Association (FPA), the annual award enables journalists aged 30 and under, from countries with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of less than US$20,000 to send in their best stories.
In 2022, a remarkable number of entries arrived from all over the world – Cameroon to Colombia, Ukraine to Uganda and Egypt to Ecuador. 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 12th, 2022.
Thomson Foundation judges looked 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.
The winner was announced at the FPA Awards ceremony on 28 November 2022 in London.
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