PETALING JAYA, 25 July 2011: The Nut Graph columnist Gan Pei Ling has won a Special Prize in Penang’s inaugural Green Journalism Award for a column she wrote about the effectiveness of banning plastic.
The piece, which won her one of two special prizes in the English language category, was entitled The plastic menace and was published by The Nut Graph on 20 July 2010. It was published in Gan’s monthly environmental column, As if Earth Matters, which she began writing on 30 June 2010.
“I would still have continued to write about the environment with or without the award,” Gan, a journalism graduate from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, said in an e-mail interview.
She said being an environmental journalist would not stop her from taking an active interest in pursuing human rights and indigenous people or community issues “because I see all these issues as inter-related and inseparable”.
“I think the media needs to start drawing the links, between the environment, local communities and our economy, and provide the bigger picture of how, in many cases, the degradation of nature ends up hurting our own communities and economic interests. I hope I’ll be able to draw these links in my reporting.”
Gan’s first full-time job as a journalist began in The Nut Graph in June 2010. After The Nut Graph shut its office and retrenched all staff in August 2010, she joined community paper Selangor Times. However, Gan remains a columnist and contributor to The Nut Graph which now provides only weekly news analysis and commentaries.
Prior to joining The Nut Graph, Gan had already shown a keen interest in the environment and community action. She attended the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009 as part of the Malaysian Youth Climate Justice Network. Her writings on COP15 and climate change were also published by The Nut Graph.
Gan said she was thrilled at winning an award even though she’s only been a journalist for about a year. “Of course it feels good to get recognition for my work, but I think there are many better environmental journalists out there,” Gan, 24, said. She cited Tan Cheng Li from The Star, and Hilary Chiew, formerly from The Star.
Gan said any environmental journalism award would help promote environmental journalism. That in turn would increase coverage on issues such as sustainable development, climate change, public transportation, deforestation, biodiversity loss, coral bleaching, and energy security in the country.
Gan received her award together with a certificate and prize money of RM1,000 at a ceremony in Komtar, Penang on 19 July 2011. The chief minister’s political secretary Ng Wei Aik, who is also the Komtar assemblyperson, gave out the award to participating journalists.
In the English language category, The Star bagged the Excellence Award and the second Special Prize. For the Malay language category, Sinar Harian won the Excellence Award and one Special Prize while the second Special Prize was left unawarded.
There was no Excellence Prize winner for the Chinese language category. The two special prizes were given to Sin Chew Jit Poh and China Press respectively.
The Penang government, which organised the award, received a total of five submissions for the English language category, four for the Mandarin, and three for the Malay. There were no submissions for the Tamil language category.
The judges for the award comprised academics from three institutions of higher learning, and representatives from the Malaysian Nature Society and Sahabat Alam Malaysia.