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Peter Bhatia of The Oregonian, Rena Golden of CNN International and Peter Jennings of ABC News to headline International Convention of South Asian Journalists (June 20-22 at Columbia University)

New York, NY, June 5, 2003 - SAJA, the South Asian Journalists Association, will honor the winners of the 2003 SAJA Journalism Awards contest at its ninth annual dinner on Friday, June 20, at Columbia University in New York. These annual awards recognize excellence in reporting about South Asia, as well as outstanding reporting by South Asian journalists and students in the U.S. and Canada. The Awards ceremony is part of the SAJA international convention, which takes place June 20-22 and is expected to draw 600 journalists and guests from the U.S., Canada, Europe and South Asia.

HEADLINERS: Peter Jennings, anchor, ABC News (Friday, 10 am); Rena Golden, head of CNN International (Friday gala dinner); Peter Bhatia, executive editor The Oregonian & president, American Society of Newspaper Editors (Friday gala dinner)

The awards will be presented at Columbia University by Peter Bhatia, executive editor of The Oregonian and president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and Rena Golden, executive vice president and general manager of CNN International. In addition, Bhatia and Golden, the senior-most South Asians in U.S. newspapers and television, respectively, will each receive a SAJA Journalism Leader Award in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to the field of journalism. They will receive the awards from S. Mitra Kalita, SAJA President and a reporter for The Washington Post.

"This year we honor our very own," said Kalita. "Peter Bhatia and Rena Golden represent the best in their professions and set a standard of excellence that all of us should strive for. First and foremost, they are superior journalists. But the fact that they are also South Asian speaks volumes about how far we have come and that is truly inspirational."

The convention's opening speaker on Friday, June 20 at 10 a.m. is Peter Jennings, ABC News anchor, who will talk about his experiences covering South Asia and other international stories for more than 30 years.

SAJA will also pay tribute to the memory of slain reporter Daniel Pearl, who, as Mumbai bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, was a regular participant in SAJA's cyber activities. The second Daniel Pearl Award for outstanding print reporting on South Asia by a U.S. journalist will be presented that night in the presence of his family, friends and Journal colleagues. This year's winner is Richard Behar, a senior writer for Fortune magazine, who spent 10 weeks reporting in Pakistan.

According to Seshu Badrinath, chair of the SAJA awards committee, these awards are crucial "because they recognize outstanding reportage and photography about a vital but under-covered region -- countries that are a part of the Indian subcontinent -- and also because they honor the work of South Asian journalists in the U.S.

This year's contest received more than 300 entries from more than 100 media outlets for work executed in 2002. The entries reflected the higher visibility of South Asians in the United States and the increased attention paid to the subcontinent, in large part because of political and religious tensions there. Sreenath Sreenivasan, administrator of the awards and a professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, added, "The wide range of media outlets that sent in entries shows the strong interest in upholding standards in foreign coverage and in reporting by minority journalists."

Below is a list of winners of this year's awards. Web versions of articles and photographs will be available online at the SAJA site in August 2003.
The awards will be presented on Friday, June 20, at 6:30 p.m. at a gala awards ceremony at the Roone Arledge Auditorium at Columbia's Lerner Hall (115th St & Broadway) as part of the three-day SAJA Convention. Twenty-five professional development workshops, panels and discussions will be held that weekend. The convention kicks off with a pre-convention reception on Thursday, June 19 at Gallery Arts India.

The convention and dinner are open to the public. All are welcome. Visit http://www.saja.org for details, including ticket information.

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