The Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA), a Hong Kong-based non-profit dedicated to pursuing excellence in journalism, announced the winners of its annual Awards for Editorial Excellence in recognition of outstanding works of journalism over the past year in the APAC region.
The ceremony took place virtually on Thursday evening, June 16 where 98 awards were presented for coverage of key issues around the region, including the coup in Myanmar, the fall of Afghanistan, the continued fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, and tightening freedom of expression in Hong Kong. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) and the 24th consecutive year of Awards for Editorial Excellence.
Who were the night’s winners?
Over 750 English and Chinese-language entries competed in 20 categories. They ranged from photography to business and investigative reporting to public service journalism and included two new categories of Excellence in Technology Reporting and Excellence in Audio Reporting.
The keynote address featured a wide-ranging fireside chat between Gina Chua, executive editor of media startup Semafor, and The Economist’s Alice Su, last year’s winner of the SOPA Young Journalists Award, on topics from increasing restrictions on press freedom, restoring trust in the media, and viable financial models in the news industry.
Conflict in the region
There were two major political events that shook the Asian region in 2021. In February, the military launched a coup in Myanmar, putting local reporters in particular jeopardy.
Myanmar Now won an Award for Excellence in Human Rights Reporting for “Human responses to the junta’s cruelty,’’ while Frontier Myanmar won for Excellence in photography for “The evolution of Myanmar’s Spring Revolution.” Al Jazeera also won an Honorable Mention in the global Human Rights Reporting category for “This is Myanmar’s State of Fear.”
August marked the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal won the top global prize for its breaking news coverage “Saigon on Steroids” and the Los Angeles Times won an Award for Excellence in the global photography category for “The Fall of Afghanistan.”
Women Issues honoured again
Women’s Issues also stayed in the news again this year with the global Award for Excellence going to 1843 Magazine, The Economist and The Fuller Project, for “She was trafficked into a giant brothel. Now she runs it” and Sixth Tone won the regional Award for Excellence for “A Woman’s Quest for Motherhood. A Cross-Border Trade in Babies” were the stand-outs.
Audio reporting contention
The new category of Audio Reporting drew strong contenders, including startup Project Brazen, whose podcast “Fat Leonard” won a global Award for Excellence. And in the new Technology Reporting category, Tencent News won the Chinese-language Award for Excellence for “Across the Ruins: The Bicycle Sharing Drama Has Not Ended.”
Beijing-Honk Kong strife
The fallout from Beijing’s imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong was also a focus as was increasing tension between Beijing and Taipei. Ming Pao won the Award for Excellence in Chinese-language for Explanatory Reporting for “National Security Law: Year One.”
And Initium Media’s report on the historic closure of a Hong Kong newspaper took Honorable Mention in the breaking news category for “‘Like a hand over your mouth’: Journalists, readers and newspaper sellers say goodbye to Apple Daily.” CommonWealth Magazine won the Chinese-language Award for Excellence in the Infographics category for its depiction of “The Direst Straits: Why Has the Chinese Military Increased Activity Near Taiwan?”
The night’s biggest award
In awarding the prestigious SOPA Award for Public Service Journalism to The Wall Street Journal for its coverage of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, “Of Unknown Origin,” the judges said: “No other news story has been of greater public interest in this year.”
What were SOPA’s executives’ thoughts on the awards?
Commenting on the SOPA, Madeleine Lim, Senior Executive Editor Asia at Bloomberg News and Chair of the SOPA Editorial Committee, said: “Congratulations to the winners for your excellent work and thank you to everyone who submitted to the awards and to the judges who volunteered their time to make the difficult decisions selecting the best of the best.”
“How uplifting to see such a strong field of entries across so many different categories.Your terrific work exemplifies why we need good journalism now more than ever. I salute all of you for telling the true stories of our times in a compelling and impactful way,” said Byron Perry, Founder and CEO of Coconuts Media and Chair of the SOPA Board.