Monday, December 23rd, 2013


  • Jalalzai Mirwais, 26, male. Reporter and producer with Radio Afghanistan in Kabul. Also freelances for Reports on human rights and youth issues.


  • Zobaer Ahmed, 30, male. Reporter for news stories and documentaries on Maasranga Television in Dhaka, specialising in energy and environment.


  • Sonam Pelden, 28, female. Chief reporter of Kuensel, Bhutan’s main newspaper. Covers various national issues and guides junior reporters.


  • Anggi Oktarinda, 28, female. Journalist with Bisnis Indonesia, Jakarta, covering the Presidential Palace.
  • Dewi Yuhana, 33, female. Editor for business, education and the youth section of Malang Post in Malang, East Java, part of the Jawa Pos group.


  • Sundaresha Subramanian, 34, male. Senior assistant editor with Business Standard, New Delhi. Writes on markets and investment, and weekend features.
  • Nishima K., 36, female. Senior sub-editor and writer with Malayalam-language Manorama Weekly, India’s biggest selling magazine. Involved in Manorama’s CSR projects.


  • Ko Ko Gyi, 27, male. Senior reporter with the English-language Mizzima Business Weekly Magazine, Yangon. Mizzima is a media company that has returned from exile.


  • Narayan Wagle, 45, male. Writer and columnist with Formerly editor-in-chief of Nagarik Daily and Kantipur Daily.


  • Kris Danielle Panti Suarez, 27, male. Science and nature editor for Manila-based, a new social news network. Also produces content as a multimedia reporter.
  • Arlene B. Burgos, 39, female. Head of social media and mobile at ABS-CBN digital, the top Philippine news website. Also teaches journalism at Ateneo de Manila University.


  • Fazal Khaliq, 39, male. Reporter for Karachi-based, English-language Express Tribune newspaper, covering the war-torn Swat Valley.


  • Quek Sy Mung, 46, female. Chief Sub-editor for Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao.

Sri Lanka 

  • Ifham Nizam, 43, male. Journalist with the English-language Island newspaper, Colombo, covering politics, energy. Won Environmental Journalist of the Year awards.


  • Watchiranont Thongtep, 33, male. Business journalist with The Nation, Bangkok. Covers media and broadcasting industries.


  • Nguyen Phuong Thao, 29, female. Journalist and producer with VTC16, Vietnam Agriculture & Rural TV Channel in Hanoi. Has done documentaries in Indonesia, Thailand.


Note: A journalist from China was originally on this list but was forced to withdraw due to a change in his organisation’s policies.


Saturday, June 15th, 2013
2012 Fellows Erna Sari Ulina Girsang from Indonesia and Tran My Hang from Vietnam greet each other at AJF Connect.

2012 Fellows My Hang from Vietnam and Erna from Indonesia reconnect at AJF Connect.

AJF Connect reunites Fellows

AJF’s first reunion event was a heady mix of intellectual discussions, intense networking and informal partying. AJF Connect, from 24-28 April, brought together 30 past Fellows (31 if you include one via Skype) as well as the 17 current Fellows. “With five batches of Fellows, we now have a really unique and precious network spanning 15 different Asian countries,” noted AJF director Cherian George. “The Fellowship makes the links, Facebook can enliven the connections, but there is nothing like face-to-face interaction to seal the human bonds we’ve formed.” Participants agreed. “It was the best experience we could have. Meeting my batch mates was nostalgic, meeting Fellows from other batches was fun,” said one AJF alum. Another added: “I feel I’ve made 10 new lasting friends.” Other than forging friendships, it was also a time of learning with the various seminars on Asia, Singapore and journalism. “AJF Connect broadens our vision, updates our understanding of Asia, melts prejudices and breaks barriers,” said a participant.

For more photographs, click here.


Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Cabinet Minister K. Shanmugam at NTU for a wide-ranging dialogue with AJF Fellows on May 3.

Cabinet Minister K. Shanmugam at NTU for a wide-ranging dialogue with AJF Fellows on May 3. Photograph: Zakaria Zainal

Insights into immigration debate

During their three-month stay, the AJF Class of 2013 had front row seats to Singapore’s ongoing debate over its economic direction. In recent years, the Republic has had to adjust to the slowing down of a maturing economy. Its dependence on immigration to sustain economic growth has become a hot topic.

Such issues surfaced in closed-door focus group discussions organised as part of the government’s Our Singapore Conversation consultation exercise. Fellows were given special permission to attend as observers. They were struck by the strong opinions expressed during the dialogues, especially on topics such as immigration, income inequality and whether leaders were losing touch of ground realities. “There appears to be an undercurrent of disgruntlement among participants,” noted Needrup Zangpo from Bhutan. “There was no mincing of words, many were more critical than appreciative of the government.”

The government had pledged that the consultation exercise would be as open as possible for Singaporeans to air their views. We should reaffirm what is good and still relevant; recalibrate in areas where we have gone off course; and refresh and innovate, and break new ground,” said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who chairs the Our Singapore Conversation committee.

Fellows had the chance to to ask Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam about apparent anti- foreigner sentiment. At a two-hour dialogue at NTU on May 3, the Minister pointed out that similar emotions were being expressed throughout the world. He added that the Government had
 to take into account such feelings and make sure that Singaporeans were taken care of.

Other topics covered included Singapore’s foreign relations and the South China Sea territorial disputes.

Other topics covered included Singapore’s foreign relations and the South China Sea territorial disputes. Photograph: Zakaria Zainal

The problem was that in the harsh global economic environment of the past several years, the alternative would have been far worse – if the government had shut the doors to people from overseas, this would have deterred investors who needed workers, resulting in lesser job creation for Singaporeans as well. There would have been greater unemployment. What the Government needed to do was to ensure that immigration took place in a way that benefited Singaporeans.

He noted that many developed countries were confronting double-digit youth unemployment levels. “If you look around the world, we do have one of the lowest unemployment rates. And I think there are very few things worse than being qualified and wanting to work but unable to find a job and not knowing when you will find a job,” he said.

While globalisation had caused dislocations in every economy it touched, de-globalisation was unthinkable for Singapore, he added. “It’s a fact of life. Most Singaporeans understand it – six to seven hundred square kilometres, 3.2 million citizens, 600 thousand permanent residents;
we grow nothing; we take nothing out of the soil. We don’t manufacture that much. We are the classic middleman. And in order to survive as a middleman, you’ve got to be smart, you’ve got to provide value,” he said.

“Why would people want to come to you unless you can provide value? So, you’ve got to have highly trained people. And, it has to be international. Our people understand that. I think that there are legitimate, understandable reasons for the unhappiness. Our task now is not to throw out globalisation, but to integrate it at a level that our people can find more acceptable. And also focus on the practices that amount to abuse – identifiable cases of unfair practices by companies. Then I think people can accept it better.”

Among the other experts whom the Fellows heard from during their stay were the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s chief economist, Thia Jang Ping, and Economic Society of Singapore members Tan Kim Song, Manu Bhaskaran and Donald Low. At AJF Connect, sociologist Paulin Straughan briefed Fellows about Singapore’s demographic trends. She noted that while the immigration policy was controversial, Singapore could not run away from the fact that citizens were failing to reproduce themselves and that the population was rapidly ageing as a result.

Straughan said that Singapore’s low birth rates were partly a side-effect of women’s emancipation. Their ability to self-actualise without a husband meant they could put off marriage till they were sure they had found love, or not get married at all. This pattern, she said, was common to other developed urban societies and would probably spread to other Asian cities.

National University of Singapore sociology professor Paulin Straughan speaking about demographic trends, flanked by former AJF director P N Balji and writer Asad Latif. They were speaking at a session on Singapore trends, on the final day of AJF Connect.

National University of Singapore sociology professor Paulin Straughan speaking about demographic trends, flanked by former AJF director P N Balji and writer Asad Latif. They were speaking at a session on Singapore trends, on the final day of AJF Connect. Photograph: Zakaria Zainal

Article by Sue-Ann Chia


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