You, Sibi Arasu, are one of a small but fortunately growing breed of young journalists who from the very start of your professional career have consciously chosen to dedicate time and attention to environment and development issues as against other subjects that could possibly have brought greater professional recognition and financial security. It is less than a decade since you graduated in Visual Communications from Loyola College and took a post-graduate diploma in journalism from Asian College of Journalism – rounding-off your Chennai-based education with a Masters in Cultural Studies with a part-scholarship at the University of London that followed a short fellowship at the School of Authentic Journalism in Yucatan, Mexico. It is altogether gratifying to see the excellent use to which you have put that homespun academic grounding topped by short international exposure.
Although you gained immediate mainstream foothold, sequentially, as reporter/senior correspondent with two leading national dailies and a leading national magazine, the past four years have seen you take the risk of striking out as an independent journalist, opting to stay at some length in remote locales of your own choosing to gain in-depth insights into the lives and problems on which you report, finding on-line or occasional print space to project your perceptive reportage. Your sensitive in-depth content is accompanied by superb photographs, including some videos, whether documenting urban chaos, battles with the sand or water mafia or the protected-animal-species-versus-human-lives-conflict deep in the wilds.
We found your four-part series on Forest Rights Act implementation in Tamil Nadu-Karnataka-Kerala particularly outstanding. The on-the-spot reports on the gaping holes in the implementation of the Forest Rights Act and the many issues relating to indigenous people bringing vibrancy to the marginalised voices of the adivasis and small indigenous tribes whose ancestral homes and rights lie destroyed are brilliant. Throughout your work not only is the narrative element strong which takes the reader easily into the heart of the matter, but it is matched with rigorous pursuit of ideas /issues to put things in perspective and does not fail to incorporate the positive ray where seen. Maps, articulate summation of applicable laws/government decisions, further links to factual information build irrefutable legitimacy to argument. Simple, factual and touching is your narrative about the events/processes of the tragic Thoothukudi agitation against the Sterlite plant.
The Prem Bhatia Memorial Trust commends you for your exemplary commitment and setting of a high benchmark in environmental journalism.