Straits Times feature photo, articles win three prizes at this year's Asian Media Awards

ST executive photographer Kevin Lim took home the silver award in the Feature Photography category for an image used in the story "The burden of weight". PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Straits Times took home one silver and two bronze awards in three categories at this year's Asian Media Awards (AMA).

The silver award, for feature photography, was given to an image used in "The burden of weight", a story on synchronised swimmer Debbie Soh's struggle with body image.

Senior correspondent Zaihan Mohamed Yusof's story about match-fixing syndicates exploiting players to thrive amid the coronavirus pandemic won the bronze award in the breaking news article category, while the other bronze award, in the feature article category, was given to ST's in-depth story by eight reporters on the unravelling of the Bellagraph Nova (BN) Group.

The annual competition, now in its 20th edition, was organised by WAN-IFRA, the World Association of News Publishers, which announced this year's results on Thursday (July 22).

ST executive photographer Kevin Lim, 39, who took home the silver award in the Feature Photography category, said he has not found the time to savour the award, as he was busy taking photos for an ongoing story on Singapore's latest large Covid-19 cluster.

"Awards are good recognition, but we won't dwell on it. It's all about the work and we want it to speak volumes," said Mr Lim, who received the award for a photo of Ms Soh hanging upside down from a diving board.

He wanted his photos of synchronised swimmer Debbie Soh to convey a sense of weightlessness for a Sept 12, 2020 story about her struggles with body image, written by assistant sports editor Rohit Brijnath.

For one shot, Mr Lim balanced 10m above the pool on a diving board to capture a bird's-eye image of Ms Soh, who floated still near the centre of the frame, with gentle ripples in the water creating texture for the photo.

"Despite her struggle with her image, you see she is fully in control in the water and she could do anything she wanted," said Mr Lim, a photojournalist at ST for 12 years.

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Senior correspondent Zaihan, 50, took home bronze in the breaking news article category for his story "Match-fixers used Covid-19 lockdowns to recruit players".

The topic was all too familiar to him. He has written some 170 stories on match-fixing and was humbled that his work was recognised with an award, but felt it was a shame that such betting syndicates continue to thrive here.

"With Covid-19, you'd think betting would have scaled down, but criminal networks are still doing it - even advancing these crimes," said Mr Zaihan, who has been a reporter since 1999.

Published on Sept 14, 2020, the story arose as he drew from his connections with Interpol, punters and reporters overseas to connect the dots. "It has been one great exercise for me and I am always looking at this issue," he added.

The other bronze award went to "A bid that turned into an own goal", written by a team of eight reporters who pieced together the two-page feature report published on Aug 30, 2020.

The reporters involved were senior business correspondents Joyce Lim and Grace Leong, senior political correspondent Tham Yuen-C, China correspondents Elizabeth Law and Danson Cheong, sports correspondents David Lee and Sazali Abdul Aziz and business reporter Sue-Ann Tan.

Ms Lim, 46, who won ST's Journalist of the Year in 2020, said: "It was a very dedicated effort working with colleagues from different cities to track down different players in the saga to piece together this story of how a simple bid to buy a football team backfired on all fronts."

The BN Group caught the public eye after a shock bid for English Premier League club Newcastle United, and it eventually unravelled as the owners were called out for doctoring images of themselves with former United States President Barack Obama and outlandish claims about their company in multiple countries.

A doctored image of Mr Barack Obama with (from left) Mr Nelson Loh, Ms Evangeline Shen and Mr Terence Loh was released by the Bellagraph Nova Group when it announced its Newcastle bid on Aug 15, 2020. PHOTO: BELLAGRAPH NOVA GROUP

But the work on the BN Group is not over for Ms Lim. With police investigations still ongoing, she remains on the lookout for new developments in the saga.

"Everyone on the team will feel we are just doing our job, but it is very nice to have our work recognised," she added.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post was the biggest winner at the AMA, sweeping nine titles, including three gold awards in magazine cover design, newspaper infographics and breaking news article.

Thirty-four other media companies from nine countries took part this year, including the India Today Group and Japan's Nikkei, which were the second and third largest winners with five and four awards respectively. Indonesia's Kompas Daily won three awards.

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