SINGAPORE: Eight journalists and two media organisations were recognised for their compelling reporting of environment-related stories, facts and images at the Asian Environmental Journalism Awards (AEJA) on Wednesday (Oct 12).
A total of 11 awards were presented at this year's AEJA, which is an annual award ceremony organised by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) to recognise excellence in environmental journalism within Asia.
Channel NewsAsia’s Liyana Othman was a joint-winner of the SEC Young Environmental Journalist of the Year award alongside Sohara Mehroze Sochi from Bangladesh.
Said Ms Liyana: "It's very hard for us to get our readers and our viewers to sit up and pay attention to environmental issues, and I don't blame them because most of the time it's gloom and doom, and there's a lot of jargon that they don't necessarily understand. So our job is to help them connect the dots and to help them see the bigger picture, because most of the time, environment stories are not just about the environment, they're very, very closely intertwined with other issues like politics and business.
"It's our job to create awareness and to empower our readers and our viewers with that sort of knowledge. and if we can make an impact in even just one person, it's still a step forward in creating change to save our planet."
Channel NewsAsia also won the award for the SEC-Lee Foundation Environmental Media Organisation of the Year for its coverage of green-related content as part of its parent company Mediacorp’s Saving Gaia initiative. The news outlet last won the award in 2014, with Thomson Reuters clinching the award in 2015.
SEC's Chairperson Isabella Loh said while the environment affects the welfare of the public, environmental news often had to compete for attention against other issues such as business and entertainment. Environmental journalists, she said, needed to "ask the questions no one wants to ask and seek answers which, often, no one wants to give".
Minister of State for Communications and Information and Ministry of Health Chee Hong Tat, who presented the awards, also highlighted the "critical role" the media played in environmental protection by informing the public and shaping public opinion on important environmental issues.
"The longer we wait, the heavier the price our children will pay in the future," he said. "The media plays a critical role in environmental protection. Through your stories, you help inform the public and shape public opinion on environmental issues."
Mr Chee added that like the annual transboundary haze, many environment issues affected more than one country and it was thus crucial that all countries "play an active role in protecting our global environment".
This year's AEJA saw a record 234 entries – a 34 per cent increase from 2015 – from 20 countries including Azerbaijan, a first-time participant, according to SEC.
China's Wang Yan won the Environmental Journalist of the Year award, while Indonesia's Mushaful Imam took home the Environmental Photograph of the Year award. Mr Wang was also a joint-merit winner for the Environmental Story of the Year.
In conjunction with the awards, an inaugural forum will be held on the media’s role in advancing the Paris Agreement, a global agreement signed by 195 countries including Singapore last December to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
AEJA's forum will draw on experts from different sectors and backgrounds, in the hopes of better equipping journalists to raise eco-consciousness and fight for environmental sustainability through their work.