Acclaimed Canadian journalist Lyse Doucet OBE, OC was awarded a certificate of recognition by Southasia Peace Action Network for “courage, empathy, and acumen in reporting and educating on events in conflict zones in Southasia and the world over”.
The award was presented at the second anniversary of the Southasia Peace Action Network (Sapan) on 26 March 2023. This is the first award from the Sapan platform, initiated by Dr Tayyaba Hasan, PhD, a consummate scientist, globalist, humanitarian and mentor with a passion for social justice. She is a professor and award-winning scientist at Harvard and MIT universities doing ground-breaking work in the study of light in improving health and has over 300 publications and inventions to her credit.
“I am no journalist but I do follow world news avidly,” Dr Hasan said, talking about the “need to bring in and honour people who actually report and educate us from Southasia”.
The name that came to her mind was Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent and senior presenter who presents on BBC World Service radio and BBC World News. She has reported from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Jordan, Syria and India, including memorable reports from Kabul Airport in August 2021 after the withdrawal of US and coalition forces and the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
Doucet has won several awards for journalism and has earned over 17 honorary doctorates from reputed universities in Canada and UK. She is a trustee of the nonprofit Friends of Aschiana UK, which supports street children in Afghanistan, and has chosen to donate her honorarium of $1000 from Dr Hasan to the foundation.
Lyse Doucet joined the Sapan event from Brazil. “It’s a great honour for me to receive this award… I’m glad to be part of this new history of Sapan and of the Sapan community as it launches its new website, Sapan News.”
She referred to Sapan founder-curator Beena Sarwar’s speech a few days earlier at the Razia Bhatti Memorial Lecture, and said she agreed with Beena that the job of a journalist and an activist can often be the same, including asking uncomfortable questions and also providing the right context.
“As Sapan has been emphasising and highlighting, [there needs to be] an emphasis on peace, dialogue and human rights – whether it’s the Southasia region, or the Middle East or Ukraine where I spent a lot of my time in the past year and a half. There is such a profound yearning for peace and justice,” Doucet said.
She also spoke of a growing need for truthful, fact-based journalism. “I know that is a very loaded kind of concept – I know many of you are thinking, well, what are the facts, what do we talk about truth and whom can we trust?”
She admitted that the first time she questioned the truth was while living and reporting from Pakistan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “We live in a very paradoxical world today,” she said, speaking of the dazzling changes in technology and communication since then. “There’s so much information but also misinformation, manipulation and misunderstanding.”
She celebrated the launch of a separate website for Southasia Peace Action Network’s news syndication service, Sapan News, which was made possible with the help of the Poynter Institute’s Media Transformation Challenge 2023 where Beena is a Fellow.
While graciously accepting the first award from the Sapan platform, she added, “I look forward to the years to come when other journalists from the region will step up and be honoured in the same vein.”
This is a Sapan News syndicated feature. Lead photo: Amanda Benson
Note on Southasia as one word: Following the lead of Himal Southasian, Sapan News Network uses ‘Southasia’ as one word, “seeking to restore some of the historical unity of our common living space, without wishing any violence on the existing nation states”. Writing Sapan like this rather than all caps makes it a word that means ‘dream’.
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