The Human Rights and Religious Freedom Journalism Awards were presented by the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), a Washington, D.C.-based organisation dedicated to maintaining India’s tolerance and pluralism. Awards were created to “raise awareness of stories and perspectives that mainstream/elite media often overlook. When it came time to give prizes at the virtual awards ceremony on June 19, the winning articles demonstrated remarkable and in-depth reporting on human rights violations in Kashmir and the persecution of Muslims during COVID-19.
Syed Ali, president of the IAMC, said that this year’s jury had a difficult time selecting winners due to the pressure the Indian government exerts on the media. He said that he admired the journalists for their bravery in reporting on crucial issues affecting the Indian minority and those with less financial resources. They deserve our gratitude. According to Ali, recognising journalism that exposes power abuses and highlights how dangerous India has become for the country’s almost 300 million religious minorities is something we are pleased to be part of.
“President of Democracy Now!” Amy Goodman voiced her alarm about India’s troubling trends toward tyranny and thanked journalists for their fortitude during her keynote presentation. “When strong forces strive to conceal the truth and restrict access to information, it makes the work of journalists more difficult and frequently hazardous,” Goodman said in her keynote address. By working in more risky settings and disclosing fundamental truths about India, which is one of the world’s most populous and varied nations, you have all won a win for democracy, another participant observed.
British journalist and author Dr Yvonne Ridley concurred with Goodman’s conclusion. “It is now one of the most hazardous areas for journalists to write critically about India’s distinctive traits, notably the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headed by Narendra Modi,” she said. Dr Ridley further said that the HRRF Journalism Prizes provide hope and peace to Indian journalists on the ground who report the painful truths. Gypsy Guillen Kaiser, the activist and communicator with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), spoke about the harsh treatment of Muslim journalists in India.
In 2018, India established a new record for the number of journalists imprisoned in a single year, according to a monthly jail census. India’s incarcerated journalists are mostly Muslim as of Dec. 1, 2021, according to research. “Even more essential is to recognise and honour the crucial work of Indian journalists and remind us of our obligation to keep them safe in light of recent troubling developments in India,” Guillen Kaiser said.
Scroll.in’s Aishwarya Iyer and The Wire’s Ismat Ara were honoured with the Human Rights and Religious Freedom Young Journalist of the Year Award. For her work on religious freedom and human rights, Akanksha Kumar of Newslaundry won the award for outstanding written reporting. The News Minute’s Priyanka Thirumurthy and Shahid Tantray won the prize for the best video report. The New Issue Magazine UK’s Syed Shahriyar won the prize for the best image story.
In terms of reporting on human rights and religious freedom, Article 14 and The Mooknayak were widely regarded as the top news sources. According to the Indian American Muslim Council, the greatest pieces included the Covid-19 epidemic, prejudice against Muslims, and human rights violations in Kashmir.
Journalists who dare to write on India’s underdogs have been lauded by Ali as well. In an interview with Democracy Now! anchor Amy Goodman expressed concern about India becoming more autocratic. Writing on the negative aspects of the Bharatiya Janata Party government in India has grown more difficult for British writer Yvonne Ridley. Indian journalists who put in long hours on the ground and report the brutal facts are given solace and hope, according to Ridley.
The writer holds an M.Phil degree from National Defence University. He is a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected]