Asia New Zealand Scholarship winners

Aimee Gulliver - Malaysia

Aimee Gulliver worked at news website Malaysiakini in Malaysia. During her time there, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared.  “When I turned up at Malaysiakini, I was told it would be difficult for me to be involved in covering the disappearance of MH370, as each media organisation was only allowed two press passes and they already had two reporters who were keen to cover the event.

“Undeterred, I organised for my boss at Fairfax to write a letter supporting my application for press credentials to the Malaysian authorities. I thought I was home and hosed, but hit a further hitch when I was told that Fairfax already had two passes. I realised the Australian Fairfax journalists had beaten me there, but some frantic waving of my passport and explanations saw me issued with my own media pass.

“Each press conference would go for an hour or so, and I would be there for however long it took to file my stories after that.     

“In Malaysia, the print media outlets are controlled by the government, whereas Malaysiakini, being an online publication, was not. That meant local papers were quite complimentary about how the authorities were dealing with the investigation into the disappearance of MH370, compared to widespread criticism in the foreign media.

“It was sometimes difficult to remember that 239 people were missing, presumed dead, and that their families were still waiting for news and answers. Though Kuala Lumpur was the centre of the investigation, it was somewhat of a faceless tragedy in that there was nothing to see, compared to a tragedy like a tsunami where you are surrounded by devastation.

“That changed the night the Chinese families turned up in the media room at the hotel to protest the lack of information they had been given. To see their devastation – one woman couldn’t stand she was sobbing so hysterically – was a real eye-opener to how hard it must have been for them.

“I wrote down the main points from each day, just to keep track of the many developments in the search and investigation. It became quite interesting to flick back through my book as the investigation developed – particularly when an entry one day contradicted an entry from a week before, and both were based on information from the Malaysian authorities.”

Siobhan Downes – Hong Kong

Siobhan worked at The New York Times office in Hong Kong, during the region’s democracy protests.

“I found myself interviewing people about universal suffrage, the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China, and police brutality,” she remembers.

“I have seen insane bamboo barricades being constructed, attended a rally and rushed to the scene when there were rumours of police using tear gas.

“Half the time I had no idea what was actually going on, as most of the speeches and skirmishes were in Cantonese. Sometimes I asked people around me to summarise what was being said, and they were generally happy to oblige. Other times people actually came up to me, offering to help (I have the ‘lost lamb’ look down pat now) or just curious about what I was doing here.”

Ashleigh Stewart

Ashleigh spent time at an international newspaper while based in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on an ACICIS scholarship.

The city flooded while she was there, which she reported on for the paper, and a pickpocket stole her iPhone. But she still enjoyed the experience.

“If all else fails,” she says, “find some children to hang out with to bolster the good spirits. Indonesian children (the ones who don’t constantly badger you for money, which is most of the time under instruction from parents concealed out of view anyway) are sincere, always happy and earnestly amused by Westerners. They’ll spend hours speaking to you despite you already telling them you don’t understand, stroking your white skin, and being endlessly fascinated at how you change colour when pinched.

Isobel Ewing

Isobel Ewing was at the Deccan Herald in Bangalore.

“Like India itself, my experience in the Deccan Herald newsroom cannot be encapsulated by one sweeping statement. What could be relied upon to remain constant were the contrasts to home – in editorial decisions, work habits and day-to-day life. Reporters don’t start to trickle into the office until around 2pm, after completing their assignments. They eat together in the cafeteria from 5pm until 6pm, then start seriously working afterwards, often until 11pm.”

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