TNM’s Prajwal Bhat, Azeefa Fathima, Balakrishna win Ramnath Goenka awards

Prajwal also won an award in the Political Reporting category for his investigative series on the 2022 hijab agitations in Karnataka.
Azeefa Fathima, Balakrishna Ganeshan, Prajwal Bhat
Azeefa Fathima, Balakrishna Ganeshan, Prajwal Bhat
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The News Minute’s reporters Azeefa Fathima, Balakrishnan Ganeshan, and Prajwal Bhat won the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards 2022 in two categories. While Azeefa, Balakrishna, and Prajwal won in the Civic Journalism category for their five-part series on exposing manual scavenging in India, Prajwal also won an award in the Political Reporting category for his series on the 2022 hijab agitations in Karnataka.

The Ramnath Goenka Awards are presented to journalists for their consistent, brave, dedicated contributions to the field. Divided across multiple categories, the award consists of a prize money of Rs one lakh and a citation. 

Prajwal Bhat is a reporter of The News Minute based in Karnataka, with five years of experience, covering stories on human rights and civil liberties. He has written sharp news reports, investigative stories, and features about the social, political, and economic experiences of India’s diverse communities with a particular focus on religious and caste minorities. His reporting includes extensive profiles of students, activists, and journalists targeted with legal action by the state in India and the systemic issues that allow it to recur.

Azeefa Fathima is a senior reporter at The News Minute, and her body of work includes in-depth, long-form reports on LGBTQIA+ issues, caste, human rights, health, and law. She is also a part of InQlusive Newsrooms, a project to make the Indian media ecosystem sensitive to LGBTQIA+ issues. Azeefa was a fellow with the Health Systems Transformation Platform in 2022 and is currently a Report for the World Corp member, covering the caste beat.

Balakrishna Ganeshan is a senior reporter at The News Minute based in Hyderabad, Telangana, covering primarily politics and social movements. He writes extensively on caste and apathy caused by caste discrimination. 

Balakrishna, Azeefa Fathima, Prajwal Bhat at the award ceremony
Balakrishna, Azeefa Fathima, Prajwal Bhat at the award ceremony

For Prajwal’s series on the hijab agitations that broke out in a government college in Udupi district of Karnataka in January 2022, he was based in Udupi for four months for sustained reportage on the controversy. The first report was a detailed interview of the students who were kept out of their classrooms over their insistence on wearing the hijab. The report also investigated the involvement of the now-banned Campus Front of India in supporting the protesting women. The report established that the reaction by Hindu students to the demands of Muslim students for their rights was not spontaneous and, in fact, stage-managed. The scarves and turbans were distributed by a Hindutva group and then collected once the mainstream media had given the demonstration coverage.

The coverage not only reported on the spectacle of the protests that erupted, but also followed the aftermath of the controversy and examined how 400 Muslim women were missing classes due to the agitations. One report from the series discussed how Muslim families were contemplating uprooting their lives for the sake of their daughters’ education. Another follow-up report examined how the hijab controversy threatened the progress made in the education of Muslim women. Sourcing data from the education department, the report further demonstrated how the number of Muslim women in pre-university colleges in Udupi had doubled in the last 15 years before the hijab controversy led to Muslim women transferring out of public institutions. 

Azeefa, Balakrishna, and Prajwal’s ‘Exposing Manual Scavenging’ series examined five municipalities in the five southern states of Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Karnataka, which reported high instances of the practice. The series also critically looked into the role of district administrations and what measures they have implemented to eradicate the practice. Supported by data provided by the authorities under the Right to Information Act, the reports examined how much the administration spent on buying machinery and equipment to minimise human intervention while cleaning drains and septic tanks. They also looked at the number of former manual scavengers each district administration has identified and provided the entitled rehabilitation under the Act; and whether compensation was provided to the families of victims of manual scavenging.

The award ceremony was held on Tuesday, March 19 in New Delhi. The awards were presented by Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport & Highways, to winning journalists in various categories across media platforms – print, broadcast, and digital.

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