KUALA LUMPUR: For its headline-grabbing coverage of the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the New Straits Times won the coveted Excellence in Breaking News at the Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards in Hong Kong.
The English daily was represented by Associate Editor (Current Affairs) Farrah Naz Karim, who heads the newspaper's Special Probes Team.
The NST was the first to confirm, in an exclusive report, that the murder victim was Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un.
Jong-nam was murdered, allegedly by North Korean intelligence operatives, in a well-executed operation at klia2 in Sepang on Feb 13 that year.
The newspaper became the reference point for the world's media, which had descended on Kuala Lumpur to chase the story.
In its Feb 16 edition, the NST published a front-page report, headlined 'Death strike in 5 seconds'. The report quoted sources with intimate knowledge of the investigation, on how Jong-nam was approached by two foreign women, recruited by the agents.
The women then administered a lethal chemical agent on Jong-nam at the self check-in counter at klia2.
The coverage by the newspaper was unrelenting. The next day, the NST frontpaged the identity of the four North Korean agents who played a key role in planning and executing the hit.
It was also the first to publish a picture of Jong-nam, slumped in a chair at the klia2 clinic, moments after the attack. Twenty minutes after the photo was taken, while on the way to Putrajaya hospital, Jong-nam was dead.
NST was also the first to report that investigators had solved the murder and that police would announce the results of the investigation, the next day.
SOPA, a Hong Kong-based, not-for-profit organisation received more than 850 entries in English and Chinese for the SOPA 2018 Awards for Editorial Excellence, up 13 per cent from 2017. It was the highest number since the launch of the awards in 1999.
The SOPA Awards are recognised as a world-class benchmark for best practices in journalism in Asia Pacific. This includes journalistic innovation across international, regional and local media platforms in the region.