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Yashraj Sharma: The 2022 YJA winner on a year of opportunity

17/11/2023

Yashraj Sharma has seen big changes in his life since he won the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award in 2022.

In the run up to the 2023 winner being announced, he spoke to us about what the award means to him.

Yashraj Sharma can sum up in one word what winning the Young Journalist Award last year afforded him: opportunity.

The benefits of this competition exceed far beyond the award night. I mean, it just doesnt end with all the bling, he says.

Yashraj was unable to collect his award in person in 2022. At the time he was the interim editor of The Kashmir Walla, accused of inciting riots after he reported that Kashmiri school children were being forced to celebrate India's Republic Day. He was on bail and couldn't leave the country.

In August 2023 The Kashmir Walla's website and social media sites were blocked by the Indian government. An eviction notice was later served at the office. Two of Yashraj's former colleagues remain in jail and his own case is still pending.

The benefits of this competition exceed far beyond the awards night

Yashraj Sharma

From mentor to friend Yashraj has now relocated to Delhi. To help him through what has been an emotionally very overwhelming year, he says he's drawn on the contacts he made through the Young Journalist award.

[The award] opens you up to a network, sort of an ecosystem, where you as a young journalist coming out of a developing country where you do not have a lot of resources, can find an ecosystem which you can rely on in your bad days, he says.

Yashraj says the biggest opportunity for him was the chance to be mentored by veteran Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ewen MacAskill. The pair were part of Connect 6, a Thomson Foundation mentoring scheme which linked six young journalists from the 2022 Young Journalist competition, with six of the best in the industry. Ewen and Yashraj are now firm friends.

Yashraj says the biggest opportunity for him was the chance to be mentored by veteran Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ewen MacAskill. The pair were part of Connect 6, a Thomson Foundation mentoring scheme which linked six young journalists from the 2022 Young Journalist competition, with six of the best in the industry. Ewen and Yashraj are now firm friends.

Ewen MacAskill

I think the most important difference that winning this award made to my life is the opportunity that it brought me. And by opportunity, I mean the chance to work with Ewen, says Yashraj. He has been this reliable force in my life since that award happened.

The most important difference that winning this award made to my life is the opportunity that it brought me

Yashraj Sharma

Yashraj impressed the judges last year with his writing skills and variety of stories including a shocking one about female foeticide in India - the abortion of female foetuses.

At just 23 years of age, Yashraj says he has experienced the best of days as a reporter in the field and the worst of days, the worst of places'. He dedicated his award last year to all the journalists who've been jailed for holding power to account. His own commitment to journalism remains undimmed.

One thing that Im proud of is that I still remain a journalist, he says.

Previous YJA winners

Kai Hui Wong 2021 winner

Martin Leandro Camacho 2020 winner

Meiryum Ali 2019 winner

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