PETALING JAYA: The R.AGE investigative journalism team did Malaysia proud as its projects on female circumcision and refugee rights were both recognised at the SOPA Awards, a prestigious international award presented annually in Hong Kong.
The Hidden Cut and Refugees No More - both original R.AGE documentary projects - received awards for “Excellence in Reporting on Women’s Issues” and “Excellence in Journalistic Innovation” respectively.
The Hidden Cut explored how female circumcision is still widely practiced in Malaysia without any form of regulation, which has left children at risk of infection or medical complications.
“This sensitively and carefully reported story at the intersection of human rights and medical ethics shed light on the surprising prevalence of a deeply troubling practice in Malaysia,” read the judges’ official statement.
R.AGE senior producer Chen Yih Wen, who produced The Hidden Cut, hopes the award will help spur dialogue between the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, health practitioners and NGOs, to find a solution.
“As it is seen as a long-standing customary practice, this issue needs to be addressed with sensitivity, but I believe ultimately, the child’s interest should come first,” said Chen.
WATCH: How female circumcision is still practised in Malaysia today
Refugees No More, which was also granted an Asian Media Award recently, documents the devastating impact of UNHCR’s decision to end refugee protections for Myanmar Chin refugees, which led to an increase in mental health issues in the community including at least one reported suicide.
The R.AGE team developed a special website which combined text, interactive graphics, and short videos to guide readers through the refugees’ stories; hence the recognition of its “journalistic innovation”.
“We hope that the Malaysian government and society will start seeing refugees as a humanitarian issue, not a legal one, and that national policies moving forward will reflect this,” said R.AGE deputy executive producer Elroi Yee.
WATCH: Refugees No More, an award-winning R.AGE documentary series
The winners of this year’s SOPA Awards came from a highly-competitive field of 800 entries across 17 categories, with other winners including The New York Times, VICE Asia, Malaysiakini, South China Morning Post, and Rappler.
R.AGE has won over 30 major awards for journalism, digital media innovation, filmmaking, marketing and activism since rebranding into a hard-hitting documentary journalism team in 2015.
In April, R.AGE received its second consecutive Peabody Award nomination, widely considered one of the most prestigious international awards for broadcast and online journalism, though they ultimately did not win.