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2023 SAJA Award Winners

2023-11-20 6:25 PM | Mihir Zaveri (Administrator)

We're pleased to announce the winners of this year's SAJA awards, who were recognized for their outstanding coverage of South Asia and the diaspora. The winners and finalists were announced at our annual event in New York City on Nov. 4.

Congrats to all the winners and finalists!

The Daniel Pearl Award

Winner: Washington Post’s "In Modi's India, an Empire Built on Coal"
Judge’s citation: “A deeply reported investigative piece about the man behind the country’s coal empire and his ties to the ruling BJP" and "The reporting and writing are stellar."

Business Reporting

Winner: Katie McQue’s story "Abuses on U.S. bases in Persian Gulf ensnare legions of migrant workers," published by the Washington Post and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Judge's citation: First, the narrative hinges on an extraordinarily well-researched foundation that brings to light the conditions of thousands of migrant workers, hemmed in by a snarl of abusive practices perpetuated by defense contractors. The reporter’s investigative diligence in exposing passport confiscation, exorbitant recruitment fees, and the stifling inability to change jobs, reflect a firm commitment to journalistic ethics and the pursuit of truth.
The shackles that bind these workers to their jobs, particularly through the withholding of "release papers" by employers, are meticulously reported in the story. It offers readers a grim view into an almost feudal system of modern employment -- in violation of working norms and possibly labor laws in the U.S.
Moreover, the story digs deep into the operations of the contracting firms, which have seemingly turned a blind eye to such inhumane practices despite being aware of them. The plight of workers, some of whom are buried under the weight of recruitment debts running into thousands, while earning a pittance, is captured with heart-wrenching clarity. It compels readers to question the integrity and ethics of the system at large.
The story examines the attempted reforms in Gulf nations like Qatar, highlighting the systemic inadequacies and the lack of employer compliance that continue to thwart any meaningful change. This story challenges the status quo, urging a reconsideration of military contracting models that seemingly engender such abuse.
With a balanced blend of investigative rigor, compassionate storytelling, and a bold confrontational stance towards systemic flaws, this story stands head and shoulders above the rest, making it a deserving recipient of the 2023 SAJA award for outstanding business journalism.

Runners up:

  • India's tech sector has a caste problem by Raksha Kumar, Rest of the World
  • The Harsh Realities of Where Your Amazon Packaging Ends Up by K. Oanh Ha, Taimoor Sobhan and Lisa Yuriko Thomas, Bloomberg
Arts, Culture, and Lifestyle

Winner: “How a YouTube channel is transforming a remote village in Bangladesh,” by Nilesh Christopher and Faisal Mahmud, Rest of World

Judges’ citation: The judges were impressed with the multilayered reporting and the visceral language and images that undergird Christopher and Mahmud’s extrapolation of a cultural curiosity into something of news value. Their story identified a fascinating digital trend in remote Bangladesh – and went there. The result was an account that weaves a very online story with one of place. The reporting, writing and visuals are equally excellent and insightful. The narrative opens with a journey that takes the reader into a specific world, and is well-sourced on the impact of this blend of tradition and technology on this one village as well as on the wider picture. The judges appreciated how contemporary the news peg was, avoiding retreading the same cultural ground about South Asians to tell a wholly new – and just plain interesting – story with wider implications.

Runners up:

  • “The Taliban can’t stop TikTik in Afghanistan” (WIRED)
  • “Asian faiths try to save swastika corrupted by Hitler” (AP)
Breaking News

Winner: "Civilian Uprising in Sri Lanka that Toppled a President," Niha Masih, Hafeel Farisz, The Washington Post

Judges citation: “Niha Masih and Hafeel Farisz of The Washington Post chronicled a chaotic and consequential moment in Sri Lanka featuring economic upheaval, mass protests and political change. With crisp and clear writing about fast-moving events, the reporters captured the events on the ground with sweep and sophistication. They also took us into the lives of ordinary Sri Lankans and the causes of wide-ranging displeasure across the population.”

Runners up:

  • The New York Times coverage of flooding in Pakistan
  • CBC coverage of an attack
International Reporting

Winner: "The sextortion scammers of rural India," Kapil Kajal, Rest of World

Runners up:

  • 2022 is already the deadliest year for journalists in Mexico, Paroma Soni, Columbia Journalism Review
  • Atul Loke, The New York Times
Student Journalism

Winner: Pavithra Rajesh, for “Indigenous identity crisis: Who has the right to claim they are Taíno?”
Runners up:

Judge's citation: "Novel topic, learnt something new, loved the accompanying visuals” and "I learned a lot from this story of Taino culture and identity. Kudos to the reporter for being able to report on this story with nuance and sensitivity, a tough task.”

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