Nine Journalists in Southeast Asia Win the 2021 ExcEl Award

Opening ExcEl Award 2021

Nine journalists from four countries in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Philippines were awarded the 2021 ExcEl Award (Excellence in Election Reporting in Southeast Asia).

This year, the jury who curated journalistic reports consisted of senior journalists and academics, namely Hermien Y. Kleden (Indonesia), Cherian George (professor of media studies, Singapore), Pravit Rojanaphruk (Thailand), Tess Bacalla (Philippines), and Kuek Ser Kuang Keng (Malaysia). These awards are divided into three categories, namely investigative reports, features, and data-driven stories. “We received about 70 reports from five countries published on September 1, 2019 – June 31, 2021. Of that number, the data-driven category is still too low. But the results were good,” Kleden said, Thursday, September 23, 2021.

The coverage entitled “Social Aid Kickback for the Bull Party” and “Social Aid Bags at Election Campaigns” written by journalists from Tempo magazine from Indonesia, Linda Novi Trianita and Devi Ernis were awarded first place in the investigative reporting category. This report, which was published on December 22, 2020, raises the case of corruption in social assistance by the former Minister of Social Affairs, Juliari Peter Batubara. Tempo journalists found that the social assistance project in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic was controlled by a number of politicians and state officials. In addition, this report shows that there are indications that some of the money went into the pockets of regional head candidates from the ruling party of PDI-P. The Winners in the investigative category are entitled to receive a prizes money of $1200.

“Thank you for this award. Especially for my colleague, Devi who is currently in Papua. This report shows that there is still a lot of corruption in Indonesia. It may be even worse than 1998. In the midst of the Covid-19 situation, the minister of social affairs actually used social assistance for regional elections. Fortunately, we have a tradition of investigating,” said Linda.

The Malaysiakini journalist, Ng Xiang Yi won the feature category with two reports were entitled “Whoever paves the road will have our votes for life (part I)” and also “In the battle for votes to improve roads, Star says it’ll get a 3km road fixed (part II). This story that managed to get rid of the other five nominations portrays the general election in Sabah Malaysia.

“Thank you so much for this award. It’s a small story I found in Sabah’s last election. I made up the story in the middle of doing other tasks. They asked for the road to be repaired. Hopefully, there will be even better contributions in the future,” said Ng Xiang Yi.

In this category, two media from Indonesia, Kompas and Tempo magazine won 2nd and 3rd place, respectively. Kompas journalist Nikolaus Harbowo reported news related to general elections entitled “2020 Regional Election, Covid-19, and The Betting of Collective Memory .” Meanwhile, the Tempo journalists Wayan Agus Purnomo and Raymundus Rikang produced two reports entitled “Jokowi’s Son Maneuvers Towards Candidacy” and “Bobby’s Gambit.” Each winner in this category is entitled to receive prize money of $1200, $1000, and $800.

Meanwhile, in the data-driven story category, Nigel Aw Heng Liang from Malaysiakini won with two reports entitled Sabah Decides 2020 (part I) and The Who’s Who (part II). This was followed by The Philippines PCIJ journalist, Cherry Mae G. Salazar as she reported on the election candidate campaign that started long before the election in May 2022. Candidates have allegedly spent thousands to millions of Pesos since August 2020 to advertise on Facebook. As with the other categories, the winners will receive $1200 and $1000 in prize money, respectively. “This is teamwork. Not only the story but there is coding and others. This could be developed more attractively to be more visually appealing. In Sabah it is complex, perhaps not many people know it. Thank you for the award,” said Nigel Aw Heng Liang.

In addition to these three categories, the judges and organizers, namely The Indonesian Association for Media Development (PPMN) and The Asia-Pacific Regional Support for Elections and Political Transitions (RESPECT) gave special awards to Myanmar journalists, Khin Moh Moh Lwin and Thaw Zin Myo from Myanmar Now for a report entitled “The PPP, a party of NLD defectors, military men, and ultranationalists.”

“We would like to express our appreciation. We thank you for reporting on the very difficult situation in Myanmar at this time,” Kleden concluded.

Damar Fery Ardiyan