The Chameli Devi Jain Award for an Outstanding Woman Journalist was awarded jointly this year to Arfa Khanum Sherwani, senior editor, The Wire and Rohini Mohan, a Bengaluru-based independent journalist. Rukmini S., an independent data-journalist from Chennai, received an Honourable Mention.
The annual award, which recognises social concern, dedication, courage and compassion, received over 40 entries from all over India representing the print, broadcast and online media. While most entries were in English, a substantial proportion was also in Hindi, Malayalam, Odia and Telugu.
A three-member jury, comprising of Zoya Hasan, political scientist and Professor Emerita, Centre of Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Sreenivasan Jain, Managing Editor, NDTV and Manoj Mitta, senior editor and author, felt that Arfa Khanum Sherwani excelled in reporting from conflict situations in Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh. Through her online videos in Hindi, including field reports and studio discussions, she displayed exceptional courage and empathy in giving a voice to people on the margins and holding authorities to account.
The jury observed that Rohini Mohan’s reportage on the NRC exercise in Assam set a new benchmark for investigative journalism. In the highest tradition of watchdog journalism, the meticulous research on the ground, her humane engagement with affected people, and analysis of the arbitrary conduct of the institutions involved yielded findings that proved to be far-reaching.
Rukmini S. the jury said, deserved special recognition for pushing the boundaries of data journalism in India.
The presentation of the award, scheduled for Saturday, which was to be followed by the BG Verghese Memorial Lecture by Madan Lokur, former justice of the Supreme Court, was postponed due to the coronavirus threat.
The Media Foundation instituted the Chameli Devi Jain Award for an Outstanding Woman Journalist in 1980, named after Chameli Devi Jain, a legendary freedom fighter and community reformer who went to jail for her beliefs. The first award was given in 1982 and nearly 40 years later it continues to recognise some of the best known and respected names in Indian journalism.
The Media Foundation was started in in 1979 with the aim of upholding freedom of speech, expression and information and to encourage freedom in society and enhance the quality of life through the media and process of communication. Its founding members were media luminaries including B.G. Verghese, L.C. Jain, Prabash Joshi. N.S. Jaganathan and Ajit Bhattachrjea. Currently, Mr Harish Khare, former editor, The Hindu and The Tribune is chairperson of the Foundation.