Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) announced today, May 3, World Press Freedom Day, that The Caravan, India’s premier magazine of long-form narrative journalism, is the winner of the 2023 Shorenstein Journalism Award. The Caravan publishes reportage, commentary, investigations, and literary criticism spanning the worlds of politics, culture, and society. It is known for its exhaustive stories that shine a light on India’s socio-political realities and for demonstrating an unflinching commitment to truth-telling amid India’s democratic erosion and declining press freedom. APARC will present the Shorenstein Award to Hartosh Singh Bal, the magazine’s executive editor, at a public ceremony and discussion at Stanford in autumn quarter 2023.
Sponsored by APARC, the annual Shorenstein Award honors journalists or journalism organizations that have contributed significantly to a greater understanding of Asia through outstanding reporting on critical issues affecting the region. Emulating this purpose, The Caravan and its editors and reporters have unveiled groundbreaking stories with persistence and courage, taking on issues such as the persecution of religious minorities in India, farmer suicides, labor rights, and the increasing threats to democratic institutions.
The Caravan was established in 1940 as a general-interest magazine and was favored by India’s intellectual elites before it shut down in 1988. Two decades later, it was relaunched by Anant Nath, the grandson of the founder of its publisher, Delhi Press, as a monthly on politics, art, and culture, drawing inspiration from long-form American magazines at a time when long-form journalism was relatively unheard of in India. In addition to a monthly print issue, the magazine presents web-exclusive stories on its website, as well as multimedia features and a Hindi section. Since the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party under Narendra Modi in national politics, The Caravan has garnered recognition for its political investigations and daring commentary.
The decline in press freedom and growing threats to democratic institutions in India under the Modi government have been well-documented. “The violence against journalists, the politically partisan media, and the concentration of media ownership all demonstrate that press freedom is in crisis in ‘the world’s largest democracy,’” according to Reporters Without Borders’ latest World Press Freedom Index, which ranks India as “one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the media.” In this environment, where media organizations are under constant pressure to toe the government line and critical reporting is often suppressed, The Caravan has kept its commitment to editorial independence. Facing violence, sedition charges, and imprisonment, the magazine has continued to produce investigations exposing Hindu extremist terrorism, political assassinations, gender and caste inequality, and ethnic violence against the Muslim minority in the country.
“Despite intimidation and harassment from the government, The Caravan continues to document the erosion of democracy and human rights in India,” said Stanford sociologist Gi-Wook Shin, the William J. Perry Professor of Contemporary Korea and the director of APARC. “The magazine’s team of intrepid editors and reporters demonstrates the highest level of journalistic integrity and excellence. It is our honor to recognize it with the 2023 Shorenstein Journalism Award.”
The award also recognizes the contributions of The Caravan’s executive editor, Hartosh Singh Bal, who formerly worked as the magazine’s political editor for ten years. An incisive commentator on Indian politics and society, Bal was the political editor of Open magazine and has worked with The Indian Express, Tehelka and Mail Today. He is the author of Waters Close Over Us, A Journey Along the Narmada and co-author of A Certain Ambiguity, A Mathematical Novel. He is trained as an engineer and a mathematician.
Presented annually by APARC, the Shorenstein Award, which carries a $10,000 cash prize, honors the legacy of APARC’s benefactor, Mr. Walter H. Shorenstein, and his twin passions for promoting excellence in journalism and understanding of Asia. The selection committee for the award, which chose The Caravan as the 2023 honoree, noted that the magazine and Mr. Bal have led the last bastion of bold investigative journalism in India under extreme duress.
The committee members are William Dobson, co-editor of the Journal of Democracy; Anna Fifield, Asia-Pacific Editor of The Washington Post and recipient of the 2018 Shorenstein Journalism Award; James Hamilton, Hearst Professor of Communication, chair of the Department of Communication, and director of the Stanford Journalism Program, Stanford University; Louisa Lim, senior lecturer, Audio-Visual Journalism Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne; and Raju Narisetti, Publisher, McKinsey Global Publishing, McKinsey and Company.
Twenty-one journalists previously received the Shorenstein award, including most recently Emily Feng, NPR’s Beijing correspondent; Swe Win, editor-in-chief of the independent Burmese news organization Myanmar Now; Tom Wright, co-author of the bestseller Billion Dollar Whale and a veteran Asia reporter; and Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa, CEO and executive editor of the Philippines-based news organization Rappler.
Information about the 2023 Shorenstein Journalism Award ceremony and panel discussion featuring Mr. Bal will be forthcoming in the fall quarter.