Seapa announces opening of the annual journalism fellowship

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The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (Seapa) is now accepting applications for its Annual Journalism Fellowship (SAF) for 2015, with the theme “Hunger in the (Asean) Community.”

Applications must up be on July 24, 2015.

The theme was selected in the context of the formal launch of the Asean Community at the end of 2015.

Selected fellows are expected to critically investigate and report on food security issues in the context of regionalization, including policies, intiatives, and their impact on the population, environment and other related human rights.

As ASEAN formalizes its regional community with a strong emphasis on economic cooperation aspects, SAF 2015 aims to the situation highlight sections of the populations who have been or have the potential to be left out. Fellows are also expected to critically assess questions of access to information and public participation related to the theme of food security and hunger.

The SAF 2015 program will be held between 9 September to 1 October 2015, including orientation, fieldwork and debriefing sessions.

Now on its 14th year, the SAF is a flagship program of SEAPA, which has hosted a total of 114 fellows from Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam.

Interested applicants may apply at this page: saf.seapa.org, or email fellowship@seapa.org.

General details about the SAFeligibility, selection, timeline, and editorial guidelines – can be foundhere.

About the 2015 theme

As the countdown begins for the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community, questions arise as to whether the vision is merely a political construct and to what extent the peoples of Southeast Asia will factor in this community.

At the most basic level is the threat that ASEAN could be a community dominated by hunger and poverty. The 2007-2008 global food crisis hit most societies badly, not least those in Southeast Asia. It is estimated that, in a region of 620 million people, at least 60 million Southeast Asians are currently undernourished.

This is the despite the formulation of the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework in response to the crisis and its Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security (SPA-FS) for 2009-2013. It coincided with the first Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly on the aim to reduce hunger and poverty in half by 2015.

Ahead of the MDGs deadline, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) released its report “The state of food insecurity in the world 2014). It said the prevalence of undernourishment had fallen from 18.7 percent to 11.3 percent at the global level between 1990–92 and 2012–14, with developing countries seeing the problem go down from 23.4 percent to 13.5 percent. Southeast Asian countries recorded a drop of more than 20 percent from a staggering rate of 30.7 percent at the start of the 1990s. Nevertheless, the percentages fail to mask the glaring reality that as many as 850 million people around the world are still chronically undernourished.

Theoretically, food security refers to a concept and practices to fulfil people’s needs for food by considering the dimensions of availability, access, quality, and stability. The ASEAN AIFS can be seen a part of the food security movement that emerged in the 1970s. Many, particularly developing countries, took food security for granted as a way to address hunger and poverty.

On the flip side is the question of who benefits from the policies and practices of food security. Critics say the main beneficiaries are not the people most affected by the threats of hunger and poverty, but big businesses and investors – either from the introduction of large scale agro-industries that lead to land conversions and the use of chemical materials, or the control of supply chains from farming to distribution and marketing. Cases of land grabbing, pollution and environmental disasters, displacement of indigenous peoples and threats to biological diversity are among the negative consequences of food security policies.

In evaluating the success of programs intended for the population, it is also important to assess the indicators used and if adequate information is available on how they impact different groups and individuals differently. There is limited gender disaggregated data in reports and policy documents so far, while critics have pointed out for the need for more social and environmental impact analysis of programs designed to treat hunger and undernourishment.

Journalists reporting on these challenges and malpractices have also come under threat, sometimes from state bodies and corporations in the form of legal threats or censorship, and physical violence by non-state actors associated with either the state or businesses.

The theme encourages journalists in the region to investigate and critically report on the issues surrounding food security policies, initiatives and impact on the population, the environment and other related human rights. Fellows are also encouraged to critically assess questions of access to information and public participation in the context of food security policies and implementation.

Some questions that can be explored are:

  • How are the governance and political climate in the country influencing decisions on the food industry and businesses, as well as the management of natural resources?
  • How are human rights and gender equality reflected in the formulation and implementation of policies and plans to combat hunger and poverty?
  • To what extent is the groups most vulnerable to hunger and poverty involved in policies and the implementation of food security plans?
  • What are the experiences of local communities and smallholders in facing the competition with multinational and large businesses?
  • How are the national food policy initiatives impacting on the sustainability of the environment and biodiversity?
  • How successful and effective is the media in Southeast Asia in reporting on the topic of hunger and poverty and in investigating malpractices and corruption in the context of the food industry?

2015 Objectives

  • To generate indepth reports on the regional issue of hunger and food security from the regional perspectives.
  • To highlight the challenges of hunger and food security efforts in SEA countries.
  • To enhance SEA journalists’ capacity in writing hunger and food security issues through the journalism work experience in neighboring countries.

Expected Results 

  • Fellows generate journalism work on huger and food-security for publication in their own media outlets and SEAPA’s online spaces.
  • Fellows are willing to actively join the network for supporting SEAPA’s campaign initiatives.
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