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TODAY’s report on stranded Malaysians sleeping rough among winners for best S’pore articles on Covid-19 pandemic

SINGAPORE — Responding to a tipoff following Malaysia’s border closure in March that dozens of Malaysian workers were stranded in Singapore with no place to stay, TODAY journalist Nabilah Awang hopped into a taxi to Kranji MRT Station.

TODAY journalist Nabilah Awang and former TODAY photojournalist Najeer Yusof won Best Story for the month of March at the inaugural Stories of a Pandemic (Soap) awards that was held over video conference on Friday (Aug 14).

TODAY journalist Nabilah Awang and former TODAY photojournalist Najeer Yusof won Best Story for the month of March at the inaugural Stories of a Pandemic (Soap) awards that was held over video conference on Friday (Aug 14).

  • Judging panel chair said the report “brought home the severity of the situation”
  • TODAY’s Big Read on healthcare workers’ sacrifices and a news feature on homeless Singaporeans clinched merit awards
  • The inaugural monthly awards recognise outstanding works that document the Covid-19 crisis in Singapore

 

SINGAPORE — Responding to a tipoff following Malaysia’s border closure in March that dozens of Malaysian workers were stranded in Singapore with no place to stay, TODAY journalist Nabilah Awang hopped into a taxi to Kranji MRT Station.

One of the first sights that greeted her was warehouse storekeeper Armel Sharil who, like many other Malaysian workers who commute daily to Singapore, found himself homeless overnight with little more than his wallet and phone in his rush to cross the border before lockdown.

“He looked like he was down in the dumps and it took a lot of coaxing for him to open up,” Ms Nabilah, 26, recalled on Friday (Aug 14).

“But when he did, many others did, too. Some yelled at me in anger, some shed tears, some just looked like they had been knocked sideways but they all had something in common — they wanted me to listen to them.”

For their report on the workers’ plight, Ms Nabilah and former TODAY photojournalist Najeer Yusof won Best Story for the month of March at the inaugural Stories of a Pandemic (Soap) awards that was held over video conference on Friday.

TODAY senior journalist Wong Pei Ting clinched merit awards for two stories she wrote, one in March and the other in May.

The monthly awards recognise outstanding works that document the Covid-19 crisis in Singapore, through stories, commentaries and visuals. It is organised by The Majurity Trust, a charity started by hedge fund founder and philanthropist Danny Yong.

Clockwise, from top: Mr Han Fook Kwang, editor-at-large at The Straits Times, who was chair of the judging panel, Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, co-founder of The Thought Collective and former Nominated Member of Parliament, Dr Cherian George, author and Professor of Media Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, Mr Ivan Heng, founding artistic director at Wild Rice, Mr Samuel He, board member of Our Grandfather Story and Mr Ho Kwon Ping, executive chairman of Banyan Tree. Photo: The Majurity Trust

The winners were chosen based on the impact of their reports, their story-telling and the relevance of their work to the issues of the day. They were picked by a panel of eight judges chaired by Mr Han Fook Kwang, editor-at-large of daily broadsheet The Straits Times.

“Not many people realised the impact (of the border closures) and I think that brought home to readers the severity of the situation,” Mr Han said of Ms Nabilah’s report.

“It shows how this pandemic works and manifests itself in so many uncertain and unpredictable ways, and the story brought across that point very dramatically and clearly.”

Ms Nabilah’s report in the early hours of March 19 garnered more than 116,000 shares and an outpouring of support from Singaporeans, who offered to house Malaysian workers in their homes or provide them with food and blankets.

The Manpower Ministry said it had taken 14 workers from Kranji MRT Station to a temporary relief centre later on the night Ms Nabilah and Mr Najeer were there.

Staff from the High Commission of Malaysia and the Malaysian Association in Singapore had turned up at the station the next day after reading TODAY’s report. By evening, no Malaysians were found spending the night there.

“It struck me how fortunate I was when I learnt that a lot of them had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave their family behind to work here,” Ms Nabilah said.

“If anything, this award has spurred me to uncover more stories in our community and make a difference, especially when I am one of the lucky ones who have been given the privilege to do so through journalism.”

One of the articles that earned Ms Wong a merit award was a long-form feature as part of TODAY’s weekly series The Big Read about the sacrifices made by frontline healthcare workers. It was published in March, which was still relatively early in the Covid-19 crisis.

“For The Big Read, it came at a time when insider narratives of people working on the frontlines were scant, presumably because more of the healthcare workers got busy,” said Ms Wong, 30, who made three visits to the hospitals over the course of a week to conduct interviews.

The second merit award was for a story she wrote in May about homeless Singaporeans exposed to the elements while the rest of the country were told to stay home under circuit breaker measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

She was initially instructed to follow up on statistics on homeless people who had sought shelter since the circuit breaker began, which the authorities had disclosed.

But she knew based on the numbers that there had to be more homeless people yet to seek shelter and decided to head down to the central areas of Singapore to look for them. She eventually managed to speak to four homeless people, who told their stories about why they continued to sleep rough.

The Majurity Trust’s executive director Martin Tan said that the ability to record a moment in history makes this type of reporting meaningful. “2020 seems like forever, but decades down the road when we look back (at) today, I think that we will remember it as a year of great change and a defining moment.”

The award winners are:

February

  • Best Story: Cai Yinzhou

  • Best Commentary: Annie Tan, CNA

  • Best Visual: Josef Lee

March

  • Best Story: Nabilah Awang and Najeer Yusof, TODAY

  • Best Commentary: Teo You Yenn and Ng Kok Hoe, Academia.SG

  • Best Visual: Arman Shah and Kurt Ganapathy, The Everyday People of Singapore

April

  • Best Story: Joyce Lim, The Straits Times

  • Best Commentary: Poh Yong Han, Rice Media

  • Best Visual: Edwin Koo

May

  • Best Story: Yeo Boon Ping and Yusuf Abdol Hamid, Rice Media

  • Best Commentary: Shona Loong, Academia.SG

  • Best Visual: Kevin Lim, The Straits Times

Related topics

Nabilah Awang The Majurity Trust award Covid-19 coronavirus

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