Tuesday 10, May 2016

Dubai – MENA Herald: Sajila Saseendran, Senior Reporter at Khaleej Times and Mr. Anand Raj, O.K. Features Editor at Gulf News, Dubai, UAE, have been declared joint winners in the International category of the Aster Media Awards instituted by the DM Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Aster DM Healthcare, a leading private healthcare service providers in the GCC & India.

Rewarded for socially impactful journalism within the Gulf Cooperation Council region, the International category of the award is dedicated to the memory of Shri P.V. Vivekanand, former editor of Gulf Today in the GCC. The winners will each be given a citation and a cash prize of AED 25,000.

Dr. Azad Moopen, Founder Chairman of Aster DM Healthcare & Founder of DM Foundation said: “We believe that mainstream media has a critical role to play in setting the agenda for building incremental social capital and we hope by instituting the Aster Media Awards more journalists will take up areas of reporting which can produce social impact highlight issues to provide actionable information that will help bring socio-economic transformation. We are proud to dedicate International GCC category award to the memory of the Late Shri P.V. Vivekanand who, in his exemplary career as a journalist in the Gulf, had helped further these goals.

“We are enthusiastic of the response to the Aster Media Awards in its inaugural edition. The quality and depth of the work by the journalists is enormous and tireless. It is impressive to note that their reportage has triggered acknowledgement and positive action,” he added.

Ms. Saseendran’s award-winning report on glitches in an online portal that affected recruitment of Indian workers in the GCC was published in the Khaleej times in July 2015. The story championed the cause of empowerment of thousands of disadvantaged workers whose jobs were at stake. It helped raise the issue with the Government of India and resulted in direct intervention by the Prime Minister’s Office. Subsequently the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs fixed the glitches through the high commissioner’s office and eased the process of recruitment. The award jury praised Ms Saseendran for her “persuasive and thorough reporting” that “achieved intervention at a policy level”.

Mr. Raj’s feature in the November 6, 2015 edition of Gulf News’s Friday Magazine was about the transformation of a neglected government school into one of the best in the country owing to the intervention of a Dubai-based businessman hailing from Kerala. The story was commended for being “very good on-ground reporting’ and an inspiration for others on how Public Private Partnerships (PPP’s) could potentially improve crucial areas such as education in India. The story also helped highlight the fact that with adequate support, government schools too can be brought up to international standards.

Chairman of the jury Mr. Venu Rajamony said: “The International-GCC category was well-contested, as a result we were compelled to announce joint-winners. While Ms. Saseendran’s story got an almost immediate response from the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office, Mr. Raj’s story has very effectively raised the awareness about the need and way to improve the education sector in India. Both these stories demonstrated the one factor that all of us on the jury were looking for – impact, and that’s what makes them the winners.”

The award in the National (India) category was shared between Sarika Malhotra from Business Today and Manoj Sharma from Hindustan Times. Ms. Malhotra’s story was about child labour in India where as Mr. Sharma’s story was about a young rag-picker girl who went on to become the editor of a tabloid named Balaknama started by Chetna – an NGO that works to empower street-children in India. Additionally, the jury also recommended a special mention for a story by Mr Aasheesh Sharma and Mr Asad Ali (Hindustan Times) for their story on two women from Uttar Pradesh who took up competitive shooting after the age of 60, highlighting the cause of women’s empowerment.

Mr. Sinoj Thomas from Manorama News received the award in the Regional (Kerala) for his outstanding story about a young tribal widow in Wayanad who manages to survive and feed her children with the left-over food from school mid-day meal programme, putting the spotlight on poverty among socially deprived communities.

Winner Profiles:

Sajila Saseendran is a Senior Reporter at Khaleej Times. Saseendran is an Indian journalist with over 14 years of experience in reporting news, within the UAE and India. She has been working in the UAE for the past 11 years and has been with Khaleej Times since 2009.

Mr. Anand Raj is the O.K. Features Editor at Gulf News. Raj has over 20 years of experience in the field of journalism. Having begun his career with The Hindu in Chennai, he went on to become the sub editor with The Indian Express in Bangalore before moving to Gulf News in Dubai for the launch of Friday magazine 17 years ago.