Six journalists win first Aster Media Awards
New Delhi, October 14, 2016
Six Indian journalists -- three from Delhi, one from Kerala and two working for newspapers in Dubai -- were the winners of the inaugural Aster Media Awards presented at a function here yesterday.
Sarika Malhotra from Business Today and Manoj Sharma from HIndustan Times, both from Delhi, were the joint winners in the national category. Malhotra won the award for her heart-wrenching story that helped to raise awareness about child labour while Sharma was chosen for his inspirational story about a rag picker who went on to become the editor of Balaknama, a newspaper managed and edited by street children.
The award in the state category went to Sinoj Thomas of Malayala Manorama in Kerala, whose story on the plight of tribals prompted affirmative action from the state government, political leaders and society, in general.
In the international category, the award was given jointly to Sajila Sasheeedharan, then of Khaleej Times, and Anand Raj, of the Gulf News, both English-language newspapers in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the Aster DM Foundation, which has instituted the awards, is based.
Sajila's story on the difficulties faced by migrant workers led to improved recruitment procedures and led to responsive action from the Indian government. Raj's story brought to the fore issues of a neglected government school in Kerala, which resulted in many people lending support to it.
The winners received citations from chief guest P. J. Kurien, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Dr. Azad Moopen, Chairman of the foundation, presented the winners cash prizes totalling Rs. 25 lakhs.
Aasheesh Sharma of Hindustan Times's Brunch magazine got a special mention from the jury for the quality of reporting on a news story.
Union Health Minister J. P. Nadda said in a video message screened on the occasion that the awards would ensure the fourth pillar of society remained committed to reporting on areas of social impact.
"Journalism has an ability to impact public, policy and the politics of a country. So, I congratulate the recipients of the Aster Media Awards for their invaluable contribution. I hope more journalists will take part in this mission in upcoming years and will play a role in bringing social change through their reporting," he said.
Mr. Venu Rajamony, Press Secretary to the President of India and diplomat, who chaired the jury for the awards, said, “All these stories demonstrated the one factor that the whole jury was looking for - quality and impact, and that’s what makes them the winners.”
Dr. Moopen, Chairman & Managing Director, Aster DM Healthcare, a Dubai-based medical practitioner and who hails from Kerala, said the award-winning stories had helped to create awareness about critical issues and influenced positive change.
"We hope that the awards will encourage news media organisations to keep social development as a critical component of the editorial narrative and ensure inclusiveness," he said.
The evening also witnessed a panel discussion, conducted by journalist Vikram Chandra of NDTV, on the role of the media, with Mr. Kurien, NITI Aayog Amitabh Kant and Dr. Moopen as the participants.
Mr. Kurien urged the media to go beyond negative stories and highlight the many positive developments around the country.
Mr. Kant said the media, especially television, was focusing on sensationalism and not reflecting the collective views of society. "There is plenty of tremendous work being done by start-ups in health sector but it does not get covered well in the media," he said.
Dr. Moopen said, “There is a need for media to focus on what is required which can be the impetus for change in society.”
Later, there was another discussion on the need for Right to Health in India, in which Dr. Syeda Hameed, former Member, Planning Commission, AIIMS Director M. C. Misra, Prof. Prof. Ramanan Laxminarayan, Distinguished Professor, Public Health Foundation of India, Mr. Rajamony and Dr. Moopen participated.
Mr. Rajamony said media educated people, pointed out deficiencies and highlighted success stories. "It is important to keep media close to healthcare as an ally and this could have a multiplier effect," he said.
Dr. Laxminarayan said, “More children have been immunized in India than anywhere in the world in the last one year but few in India are aware of this wonderful achievement”
Dr. Hameed said, “Media is increasingly being inclusive and now journalists go to far-off areas capturing developments unfolding in these places.”
Dr. Misra said, “Media needs role models to attract good people like any other profession.” He also urged the media to provide more coverage to health-related issues for enhanced awareness.
Responding to this concern, Dr. Moopen said, “Technology is a great enabler for awareness. With India’s diverse challenges and remote locations, healthcare can also delivered smartly. In a country where mobile telephony empowered Indians in less than a decade, healthcare services can be dispensed with smart use of technology such as telemedicine.”
Apart from Mr. Rajamony, the other members of the jury were Ms. Shahnaz Pakrawan – founder of SP Productions and former newsreader of BBC, Mr. Rajrishi Singhal – Senior Fellow, Geo-economics Studies, Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations and former Executive Editor of the Economic Times, and Mr. Rahul Sharma- President of Rediffusion Communications and former Editor of Khaleej Times, Dubai.
Aster DM Foundation is the umbrella under which the corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities of Aster DM Healthcare, a leading healthcare provider in India and the Gulf States, is undertaken. The foundation has taken up activities in India, the Middle East, Africa, the Philippines and Afghanistan. These programmes include Free Paediatric Cardiac Surgery Programme (Save The Little Heart), Early Diseases Detection & Cancer Screening Centres (EDDCs), Community Dialysis Centres (CDCs), Radiation Oncology Centres, Doctor on Call “Mobile Clinics”, Health & Safety Awareness Programme, Free or Subsidized Treatments and MILES Village Adoption – Health Intervention. “Aster Safe Roads” is an ongoing initiative which focuses on creating awareness about road safety.