The AJF 2017 Team

ALAN JOHN, Director

Alan heads the team this year after being co-director of AJF 2015 and 2016. “What I like best about AJF is that the Fellows who arrive as strangers from everywhere in Asia leave Singapore as friends for life. And, along the way, we all deepen our commitment to doing journalism well no matter what the challenges are in the places where we live and work,” he says.

Alan retired as deputy editor of The Straits Times in September 2015 after 35 years at the paper as a writer and editor who worked closely with talented writers, photographers, artists and designers. He has published two books – Unholy Trinity, an account of Singapore’s most notorious case of child murders, and Good Grief! Everything I Know About Love, Life & Loss I Wish Somebody Had Told Me Sooner, a collection of his personal columns.

Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Alan is a Geography graduate of the University of Malaya and has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Social Work from the National University of Singapore. He spent four years at The New Straits Times in Kuala Lumpur before moving to Singapore in 1980. Outside of work, he has been a volunteer working with people with HIV and AIDS, and is currently on the board of PAVE, Singapore’s pioneer specialist centre for family violence. He is married to journalism lecturer Hedwig Alfred and they have two children.

CAROL SOON, Associate Director

Carol joins the AJF team now that the programme has a new home at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS). Aside from being involved in the overall planning of AJF 2017, Carol will take charge of the Asia Journalism Forum to be held during the fellowship period. “I looking forward to meeting the journalists and learning from them about media developments in their countries,” she says.

The IPS Senior Research Fellow leads its Arts, Culture and Media research cluster. Carol led the study on media and Internet use during the Singapore General Election of 2015. Her research has been published in several peer-reviewed journals and her paper on political bloggers in Singapore won the Top Peer-Reviewed Paper at the Conference for E-Democracy and Open Government in 2013.

Carol teaches a course on public policy, public opinion and new media at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and gets to interact with students from different parts of the world. She received the LKY School’s Research Excellence Award in 2015 and was a recipient of the Australian Endeavour Award in 2012. Carol has a PhD in Communications and New Media from the National University of Singapore. Before joining academia, Carol worked in the corporate sector developing communication campaigns for profit and non-profit organisations. Carol loves the water and could have been a fish in her previous life.

SUE-ANN CHIA, Associate Director

Sue-Ann has been Associate Director since 2012 and helps draw up the programme of activities for Fellows. As a journalist and writer, what she enjoys is the camaraderie when Fellows share the universal belief about the pursuit of truth in journalism. “The friendships forged are precious, celebrated during the three months in Singapore and updated regularly through Facebook,” she says.

A graduate in communication studies from Nanyang Technological University, Sue-Ann has been journalist for more than 15 years, including stints as a senior political correspondent with The Straits Times and copyeditor at Today. She has a Masters in Public Policy from Peking University in Beijing, China.

Now a founding partner at The Nutgraf, a content marketing agency, Sue-Ann remains involved with journalism by writing occasionally for Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. She is married to award-winning author and journalist Peh Shing Huei, and is a mother to three boisterous boys. In her free time, which is almost non-existent, she loves to cook.

ZAKARIA ZAINAL, Programme Officer

Zak is usually the first member of the AJF team most Fellows meet after they arrive in Singapore. He joined the team as programme officer in 2013 and does his best to make sure Fellows feel welcome, settle in and get know Singapore quickly. When Fellows have a question, they ask Zak. “It could be anything from how to use the public transport to finding the best places to eat, drink and shop – and no, it is not Mustafa.” He plans group outings on weekends and Zak’s cycling tours have proven popular with past Fellows. “If you prefer to walk, no problem, we can trek through MacRitchie Reservoir instead,” he says.

A photojournalism graduate of Nanyang Technological University, Zak is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Singapore and his work has appeared in Esquire Singapore, Singapore Architect and the South China Morning Post. While in university he did an internship with a Nepal newspaper that sparked an enduring fascination with the Gurkhas, the Nepali men who spend years in Singapore in a special police contingent before returning home. He has published two books and held exhibitions related to the Gurkhas. You can view his work here

VANI GUNASILAN, Programme Coordinator

Vani is going to be a familiar face to the 2017 Fellows as AJF’s main go-to person at the Institute of Policy Studies. A senior executive supporting the IPS administrative team and handling project coordination, she’s learning quickly about her newest project, AJF. Vani is an Arts honours graduate of Nanyang Technological University and majored in Sociology. Fellows can expect good food tips from her too. “I love baking and reading – my current addiction is reading books by Mariah Stewart,” she says. “I also love to eat. Everyone knows Singapore is a food paradise, and I know good places to eat at in Singapore’s heartlands. Just ask me.”

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Mailing Address

TFI-IPS Asia Journalism Fellowship
c/o Ms Vani Gunasilan
Institute of Policy Studies
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
National University of Singapore
1C Cluny Road
House 5
Singapore 259599