The Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA), a Hong Kong based not-for-profit organization, named Nita Bhalla of Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Journalist of the Year at the SOPA 2017 Awards Gala Dinner on 15 June 2017 for her reporting on human trafficking and slavery in South Asia. Awards for scoop of the year across three categories—global, regional and local media—went to Thomson Reuters for ‘The Bangladesh Bank Heist,’ MLex Market Insight for ‘MAXpower Bribery Scandal in Indonesia’ and WeMedia01 for ‘Abuse of Policy on Village Houses in New Territories.’
The awards were among the 95 SOPA Awards for Editorial Excellence announced at the event, now in its 19th year. The SOPA Awards, widely considered the most prestigious in the Asia-Pacific publishing industry, this year saw a record number of entries competing in 17 categories, including more than 750 English or Chinese-language submissions by global, regional and local media across the region.
The entries were assessed by a judging panel appointed by the Journalism & Media Studies Centre (JMSC) of the University of Hong Kong. The panel comprised more than 100 media professionals, including journalists, editors and columnists from some of the region’s most influential publications, along with academics from a number of Asia’s leading journalism schools.
“The SOPA Awards provide a platform to honor the best reporting, writing and design in publishing in Asia Pacific,” said SK Witcher, deputy Asia editor of The New York Times and chair of the SOPA editorial committee. “Congratulations to all the winners. By recognizing their best practices, we hope to inspire journalists to keep pursuing excellence in their profession, delivering the information that matters, bringing crucial issues to notice and further guarding freedom of the press.”
SOPA Awards head of judges and associate professor of JMSC, Jeffrey Timmermans said, “Despite all the recent controversy about ‘fake news,’ both justified and imaginary, this year’s SOPA Awards finalists incontrovertibly demonstrate that ‘real news’—accurate, deeply reported journalism on topics of profound human interest—is thriving.”
The keynote speaker at the dinner was Hong Kong’s former governor under British rule, Chris Patten. Speaking by video from London, he shared his thoughts on ‘One Country, Two Systems.’ A recurring topic of conversation at the awards dinner was that of ‘fake news.’ Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent and a noted campaigner for press freedom and the rights of journalists, also addressed the gathering by video from London. About 300 media executives, editors, journalists and industry practitioners from across the region attended the gala event.