About

Ms Soma Basu is an investigative journalist based out of New Delhi, India. For over a decade, she has been covering issues of environmental justice and human rights in the subcontinent. In 2011, she won the Young Environment Journalist Award instituted by Centre for Media Studies and Panos South Asia for her stories on cyclone Aila that devastated Sundarbans, world’s largest coastal mangrove forest. In 2012, she won the competition on best-published articles on “Reporting on the fate of victims of armed violence” organized by the Press Institute of India and the International Committee of the Red Cross for her stories from Maoists areas of West Bengal. In 2013, she was awarded the Prince Albert II of Monaco and United Nations Correspondents Association Global Prize for coverage of Climate Change for breaking stories from ground zero of the Uttarakhand floods that claimed more than 10,000 lives. She trekked a total of 160 km in a span of 20 days to reach remote villages of the state to take stock of rehabilitation measures by the government and bring peoples’ suffering to light. In 2015, she was shortlisted for Kurt Schork Memorial Award for her investigative piece on how the forensic pieces of evidence collected during the Bhopal Gas Tragedy were destroyed. Ms Basu is an extensive traveller.

PREVIOUS ORGANISATIONS: 

  • Publishing Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz: In-charge of the entire editorial operations ~ both desk and reporting. Lead a team of sub-editors and assistant editors to select best of the stories and publish them on the homepage. I am responsible for the overall quality of the homepage, providing editorial guidance to the desk and in-house authors to improve quality of reporting, editing and packaging of stories. I work closely with the social media team to widen the outreach of stories.
  • Senior Editor and Head of Media in Katha, a non-profit run by Padma Shree Geeta Dharmarajan, devoted to publishing and creative education through storytelling for children belonging to high risk groups from 1 July 2016 to 1 Jan 2017 ~ commissioning editor, editing children’s books, translating books from English to Hindi and vice versa, in-charge of university collaborations for folklore and translation research, head of media outreach ~ online and offline, brand building and management, fundraising and crowdsourcing, shaping and implementing strategy for Katha digital.
  • Guest Faculty (Journalism and Communication) at Delhi School of Communication, New Delhi since August 2016: Teach students various aspects of journalism with special emphasis on development journalism, field reporting and media ethics
  • Freelancing for thirdpole.net, a website for environment and development stories, since February 2015: Write stories related to environment and development
  • Academic Associate (English Journalism) in Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal from July 2015-September 2015: Teach students of English journalism writing for various formats with special emphasis on news and features for print and web, correct assignments submitted by the students, assist the head of the institute in various other academic activities, write press releases
  • As a Senior Correspondent with a special investigation team formed by Zee News, New Delhi, and DNA newspaper from Jan 1, 2015, to June 1, 2015, ~ Wrote investigative stories for DNA newspaper and Zee News. Beats included crime, politics, human rights, child and women issues, environment and judiciary
  • As a Senior Reporter in Down to Earth Magazine, New Delhi, a publication of Centre for Science and Environment, from 28 December 2012 to 1 January 2015 ~ Wrote environment and developmental stories focusing on water, waste and urban issues. Write stories for print and web edition and prepare web packages and multimedia packages. Responsible for the content of a special page on Astronomy in print edition. Assigned “disaster’ as a beat after successful coverage of Uttarakhand floods, 2013
  • As a staff reporter with The Statesman, Kolkata since 5 May 2010 to 1 December 2012 and a sub-editor from 1st April 2008 to 10 June 2009 ~ Worked as an environment reporter. Worked on other beats as well. Covered issues related to crime, politics, health, civic services, science, technology, human rights, gender issues, art & literature and an area beat ~ Salt Lake (North 24-Parganas), worked for features too in The Statesman as the theatre critic. Wrote on LGBTQ issues.

AWARDS: 

  • Won the Kurt Schork Memorial Award 2017 for International Journalism for my investigative story on skin extracted from Nepalese women was used to meet the demand raised by the booming cosmetic surgery industry in India.
  • The Prince Albert II of Monaco and UNCA Global Prize for coverage of Climate Change in 2014 for my coverage of floods that ravaged Uttarakhand in June 2013. The award was given away by UN general secretary Ban Ki-Moon in New York.
  • Won the competition on best-published articles on “Reporting on the fate of victims of armed violence – humanitarian stories” organized by the Press Institute of India and the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2012 for my stories from Maoists areas of Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura
  • CMS- Panos Young Environment Journalist Award, 2011 for my stories on climate change and Sunderbans and also coverage of cyclone Aila
  • Shortlisted for Kurt Schork Memorial Award 2015 for my stories on how Bhopal Gas Disaster, even after 30 years, continues

 FELLOWSHIPS: 

  • CSE Media Fellowship on Forest Rights Act ~ Wrote a series of news stories and op-ed pieces on the status of implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006 in Maoists affected areas of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura in West Bengal. Apart from the stories related to FRA, reported on the plight of forest dwellers and tribals who are branded as Maoists by the administration for demanding something as basic as tube wells. Also, reported on the feudal oppression of the primitive tribal groups ~ Lodha, Sabar, Birhor ~ in the hands of Santhals and Mahatos even today. Needless to mention, the fellowship also led me to pre-election (Assembly) stories in April, 2011.
  • Panos South Asia’s media fellowship on the tobacco industry ~ Reported on how the government’s increasingly tough anti-tobacco stance is at odds with its profit motive and export promotion policies. And, it is the traditional tobacco farmer who must pay the price for such ambivalence. Also, if tobacco smoking is injurious to health, its cultivation is causing no less damage to the environment. The last piece for the fellowship was how loan sharks prey on poor farmers on Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s turf where about 33 banks have opened their branches.
  • Akshaya Patra-One World Media Fellowship on Hunger ~ Garasagma, a small village in Purulia, seems to be frozen in time since 1871. The difference between primitive tribal Sabars and predominantly land-owning Mahatos is stark ~ symptomatic of a stubborn adherence to feudal ways even as the rest of the country has moved on after Independence. Another story on how despite the pretence of its ‘prized’ location, Bhuda village in Purulia continues to be held hostage by a toxic stream and an administration that has thrown its hands up in despair.

CONFERENCES:

  • Invited to the Global Investigative Journalism Conference 16th to 19th November, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • Invited by Fojo Media Institute and the Linnaeus University to attend a conference on Research and Journalism in Kalmar, Sweden, 11-16 September 2012. The theme of the conference is “Changing Coasts and Oceans”. Gave a presentation on Sunderbans and participated in the panel discussion with Swedish minister of environment, Lena Ek, and minister of environment for Seychelles, Rolph Payet.
  • Participated in the World Justice Project’s Asia Pacific Rule of Law Conference, from 26 January to January 28, 2011 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • Attended media workshop titled ‘Media & Climate Change ~ Facing the Challenge’ organised by British Deputy High Commission, Kolkata.
  • Attended Media Briefing on Climate Change, Coasts, Coastal Populations and their Concerns, Forest Rights Act (FRA), Challenge of urban air quality and mobility management, Tigers, tiger habitats and their conservation in India organized by Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi, Goa, Bhubaneswar, Kolkata and Jim Corbett National Park (Uttarakhand) respectively.

BOOKS:

  1. Co-authored BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY: AFTER 30 YEARS with Amit Khurana and Kundan Pandey. Published in 2014 by Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, the book recalls the last thirty years, notes what has gone wrong in the way the issue has been addressed and what are the lessons learnt for all stakeholders. The book chronicles how the disaster in Bhopal is continuing even after 30 years. (ISBN: 978-81-86906-78-1)

FILMS: 

  1. Wrote the script and screenplay of documentary CODE NAME RED (English/2012/47mins). Directed by Amzad Kaji, the documentary chronicles the Maoist movement during 2008-2012. It traces the journey of the Red rebels, from mass leaders to rebels in hiding. The documentary was screened in several film festivals across the country.
  2. Researcher for ‘Oder Jomite Amader Nogori’ (Bengali/2011/50 mins). Directed by Pramod Gupta, the documentary shows how Left Front government acquired land forcibly from farmers and filled up lakes, protected by Ramsar convention, in East Kolkata to make its ambitious mega-township project New Town in East Kolkata.

 

                

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