SAJA Annual Members Meeting, Board Election & Holiday Party

Date & Time: Friday December 13th; 6:30 PM

Location: Pondicheri Restaurant, 15 West 27th Street

On Friday, December 13, 2019, SAJA will hold its annual members meeting and board elections in New York City.

Voting will be conducted in person at the annual meeting and based on online proxy ballots. Voting is currently open and final results will be announced at the SAJA annual holiday party on the Friday, December 13th, 2019.

Five SAJA board member positions will be open for the two-year term of 2020-2021. Please read each candidates' statement and vote for the candidates you would like to see on the SAJA Board. You can select up to FIVE of the following candidates. More than five and your vote will be null and void.

You must be logged in to your SAJA account to vote. Only FULL members can vote. If you're having trouble with your membership, write to SAJA Secretary Nina Sen at secretary@saja.org. All other election-related questions, please direct to board member Sovy Azhath at vp@saja.org.

Please CLICK HERE to begin the voting process.

Farnoush Amiri, 

News Associate, The Associated Press


Please tell us about your journalism experience.

My journalism experience began during my undergraduate degree where I joined my student paper at San Francisco State University. From there I have written for The Orange County Register, The Hollywood Reporter, NBC News Digital and now the Associated Press. I have also produced for MSNBC. Last year, I graduated from New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute with a master's in investigative and multimedia journalism. My investigative journalism has taken me to Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and all five boroughs of New York City. An investigative project I worked on about Brad Pitt's charity Make It Right became one of the most read stories at NBC News in 2018 and became a segment on the Today Show. Currently, I am working at the Associated Press global headquarters in New York City, where I write and maintain coverage of 10 states in the East region. My plan is to transition into one of AP's Middle East bureaus where I will use my language skills in Farsi to report from the ground in the Persian Gulf.

Please tell us about your previous experience working for a Board or volunteering for an organization, including advertising events, soliciting members, social media campaigns, etc.

I worked as a member of the Coalition for Minority Journalist at New York University and I helped promote events and recruit members to our group. I have also done social media campaigns and marketing for the global brand ASOS and bringing their product and content closer to young people in San Francisco.

Why do you want to run for the SAJA board?

As an Iranian American journalist, I have seen first-hand how a newsroom suffers without diverse reporters and editors. Enterprise stories lack context, breaking news developments are reduced without proper translations and newsroom decisions lack a global perspective. But more importantly, I have seen the power our voices can have as a collective. Organizations like South Asian Journalists Association provide a platform to collaborate, advocate and propel our voices into positions and places we would never be able to go alone. My dedication to expanding and campaigning for international coverage has been translated into every newsroom I have worked in. While working as a journalist at NBC News and now at the Associated Press, I pitch and push for more nuanced coverage of South Asian and Middle Eastern communities here in the U.S. I believe the press is one of the strongest vehicles we have for breaking stereotypes and producing more authentic coverage of these groups. This belief is documented in my coverage of President Trump’s travel ban that was signed in through an executive order in the first few days of his administration. The ban first targeted solely Muslim countries but has since been rewritten to be upheld in the Supreme Court. But my investigation into its legality shows how it still, specifically targets individuals from Muslim-majority countries. I hope to continue this work and much more as a SAJA board member.

Are you a member of any other journalism organizations?



Wajahat Khan

Student, Columbia School of Journalism


Please tell us about your journalism experience.

Pakistan’s only Emmy-nominated multimedia journalist & Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Fellow with 20 years of newsroom, network, digital and field experience covering security, politics, media & culture in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and the Middle East. Former Afghanistan & Pakistan Bureau Chief for NBC News. Academic publication on conflict and media in South Asia. Author of cricket non-fiction bestseller “Game Changer” (Harper Collins UK 2019). Currently MA candidate at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Please tell us about your previous experience working for a Board or volunteering for an organization, including advertising events, soliciting members, social media campaigns, etc.

As President of the Society of Professional Journalists (Columbia J-School's Student Government) and former president of CJS's SAJA chapter, I've already conceived, designed, executed and led multiple membership, fundraising, advertising, and social media campaigns and events. Just in the last two months and under my leadership, the SPJ has already managed to hit its financial goals for the year. This is all very recent experience. My previous experiences range broadly: from my running my high school's self-funded magazine to leading my college's student-run newspaper to helping the Kennedy School with its fundraisers. I'm very confident about my organizational skills.

Why do you want to run for the SAJA board?

Community. Fraternity. Association. Support. Even the odd piece of good advice. As a mid career journalist trying to pivot to a new beginning, dealing with the unforeseen challenges of New York City and journalism school, a proud Pakistani who’s been more often confused than clear about my South Asian roots — which range from Srinagar and Rampur to Quetta and Kandahar — SAJA is where I’ve found some answers, comforts and even solutions.

I haven’t been here long — just two months, really — but I’ve been tracking SAJA since my undergrad days at Michigan, my fellowship at Harvard, and now this graduate school experiment at Columbia.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t tap into the SAJA network during those earlier experiences in America — perhaps it was connectivity, or the lack thereof — but in the limited interaction I’ve had with the incumbent SAJA leadership and membership, there’s no doubt: I’ve found my tribe.

Even if the countries we originate from are tense or partitioned, SAJA’s singularity of purpose —of South Asians, for South Asians, by South Asians — is important in a crucial industry of public service (yes, for what else is journalism) where we remain under-represented as well as Under-organized.

But more importantly, what’s inspiring is SAJA’s unity and community as a response to decades of divisive politics and history that have prevailed over South Asia.

Yes, things aren’t okay, back home. As South Asians, it’s easier for us to travel to the other side of the world than to each others’ homes, just across the border. Thus, we are denied trade, travel, even love and friendship, just because of where we live. How sad is that? How ironic? But here, in America, SAJA bonds change all that.

Thanks to a SAJA dinner, I’ve made my first Hyderabadi and Bengali friends. Thanks to one SAJA conference, I’ve run into women and men of similar backgrounds to me whom I want to both emulate as well as learn from. I’ve received recipes and retweets and reviews from a simple connection. From tip-sheets, to tea, here’s a truth: I’ve found my people, from my part of the world, united as practitioners of one of this world’s noblest professions, who are willing to help, support and be with each other on the basis of who we are, not just where we are from.

That’s why I want to run for the SAJA Board: I want to help this great organization grow into what we, as a community of proud and professional South Asians, can really achieve, united together as one of the world’s most promising diasporas.

Do you serve on any other boards?

I am the President of the Columbia University's Society of Professional Journalists (the student government at the J-School). As a SAJA board-member,  I'm confident that I will manage to bring more SAJA presence to the CJS campus, and more of CJS to SAJA. As I'm planning on staying and working in the US after I graduate, I don't see a conflict, only convergence here.


John Laxmi

Freelancer / Co-founding partner, Alinda Capital Partners LLC

Please tell us about your journalism experience.

Finance Editor at Global Finance Magazine; Freelancer; For over 15 years, I've been moderating the SAJA Discussion List.  This List posts, on a daily basis, prominent articles on journalism and South Asia(ns) in the American media.

Why do you want to run for the SAJA board?

Dear members:

Please vote for me as one of your representatives on SAJA’s board. I have served as a Board member since 2001, initially as secretary and later as treasurer and recently as an advisor to the Board. My participation in the board will assure SAJA of experience and continuity. In voting for me, you will be endorsing focus, dedication, discipline and compliance.

FOCUS: SAJA is well-known and provides a wide range of services to members and the broader community. As SAJA’s programs grow, so do demands and pressures on the organization’s capacity and resources, requiring triage, prioritization and focus on the organization’s core mission. My goals are to sharpen SAJA’s focus on core programs, i.e., scholarships, educational and training programs and SAJA Reporting Fellowship Program.

DEDICATION: SAJA depends on each of us to devote CONSISTENTLY to its programs. Over the past two decades, I have actively participated in SAJA’s activities in many different ways, despite the growing demands on my time from my personal and business interests.

DISCIPLINE: While many non-profit and journalism groups have suffered severe financial setbacks, SAJA’s financial reserves and donor base have remained stable and SAJA has ZERO debt. This gives SAJA a strong outlook for maintaining its educational and outreach programs. As treasurer and advisor, I believe I have contributed to SAJA’s financial stability and discipline.

COMPLIANCE: For nearly two decades, SAJA has entrusted to me important record-keeping and reporting obligations. These responsibilities have been fulfilled consistently and accurately. Working with you, volunteers and other board members, I will continue to help in SAJA’s governance, financial management, fundraising and membership drives. I pledge to be a champion of quality, excellence and controlled growth. If you have any questions, please contactme at johnlaxmisaja@gmail.com. Thanks.

Please tell us about your previous experience working for a Board or volunteering for an organization, including advertising events, soliciting members, social media campaigns, etc.

I have been a Full Member of SAJA since inception and have also served as a Board Member / adviser since 2001. 


Shaun Mir

Senior Video Producer, Hilton


Please tell us about your journalism experience.

I have 10+ years of international experience working in broadcast television, film and video journalism within traditional media and start-up environments. Initially I worked as a producer for Showtime Arabia in Dubai, one of the largest broadcast TV networks in the Middle East region. I moved back home to the US where I worked on various projects: as a Contributing Writer for a film blog called Art of the Title, a Production Manager for a docu-reality travel series in Japan and as an emerging artist fellow at a film institute in New York (Jacob Burns Film Center).

In 2015, I moved to Washington, DC where I worked for National Geographic as a Coordinating Producer, scripting and producing digital short-form videos for their social media platforms (Facebook, Snapchat and OTT platforms like Hulu). From there, I worked at Circa, a digital news media outlet focused on video storytelling. As a staff journalist (first as a Producer before being promoted to a managerial role as Senior Producer/Chief Videographer), I produced, filmed, edited and wrote stories across several beats (political, cultural, food and science/tech). I've produced several feature stories that have received  industry award recognition from the Tellys, Webbys, AVA Awards and National Headliner awards.

Please tell us about your previous experience working for a Board or volunteering for an organization, including advertising events, soliciting members, social media campaigns, etc.

My first experience of volunteering and organizational outreach came during my undergraduate years working for the Amnesty International chapter and several other student organizations. I've held and led meetings, briefed members on events, solicited members, served on advisory boards, etc.

As for my professional network and experience, I'm a member of a few social media networking groups that promote actively on Facebook and email newsletters to advertise events.

Why do you want to run for the SAJA board?

Having worked 10+ years in broadcast, digital and film media, I realize the importance and value of South Asian representation in journalism media.

It’s an issue that dawned on me after navigating from newsroom to newsroom and to various corporate settings. Whether I was the staff video journalist for one of the largest broadcast companies in America (Sinclair Broadcast Group) or a producer for one of the oldest established publishers (National Geographic), the South Asian stories produced always seemed to be painted with the oft-repeated lens. And I realized the editorial decisions came from people with little to no interest in telling the complexity of the region or the diversity of its people.

But my upbringing was the opposite. I grew up reading and hearing about its importance and the stories emanating from the Sub-Continent. So, in 2014, whilst looking for funding avenues for a documentary I was producing on a South Asian street theatre troupe, I learned about SAJA and its grant opportunities. I instantly realized its importance.

Since then, I have spoken with a few board members and members of SAJA (all of whom speak highly of the organization and its efforts). I want to be a part of an organization that helps fosters fellow South Asian journalists through mentorship, funding and other networking Channels.


Anushka Patil

Social Strategy Editor, The New York Times


Please tell us about your journalism experience.

I've been a social strategy editor at the New York Times since July 2019. Previously, I was a news curation editor at BuzzFeed News for 2 years, where I ran our social accounts, did homepage programming, and led our push alert strategy. I recently developed and co-hosted the first season of The Cardamom Pod, a South Asian American culture podcast from Kajal Magazine, and studied journalism at Medill from 2013 - 2016.

Please tell us about your previous experience working for a Board or volunteering for an organization, including advertising events, soliciting members, social media campaigns, etc.

I was formerly a community engagement manager for the Desi Dance Network, a volunteer-run nonprofit that promotes South Asian American performing arts and civic engagement. I helped craft the organization's mission statements, establish community guidelines, consult on social justice efforts, and recruit local coordinators. Prior to that, I served on a sexual violence coalition alongside Northwestern University professors, administrators, healthcare workers and students to build preventative resources and consult on the university's judiciary process.

Why do you want to run for the SAJA board?

Moderating the podcasting panel at SAJA's 2019 conference reminded me how critical groups like SAJA were for me when I was a student, unsure journalism was a viable career option and unaware many South Asians had succeeded in this field.

In that sense, some of SAJA's most important functions are to keep providing visibility and representation. Material support is important too, and SAJA obviously has a rich history of that — when I received a SAJA scholarship years ago, it provided the practical help I needed to stay in journalism.

But what really stuck with me from the conference, and what I'd like to focus on as a board member, was how generous panelists were with their time, knowledge, and experiences. I think it's crucial that journalism organizations for underrepresented groups are able to translate the community magic that happens at conferences into their day-to-day mission. As full-time, salaried positions become harder to come by, freelancers need staffers' solidarity.

As women and queer journalists are increasingly targeted in harassment campaigns, we need the backing of professional organizations in condemning the attacks. When South Asian communities are harmed by reductive, misguided coverage, journalists and readers alike deserve guidance and accountability from groups like SAJA.

These are not political causes. They're central to advancing newsroom diversity and advancing accurate coverage of our communities. It's an exciting time for SAJA to build on its 25 years of work in this space, and it'd be an honor to help do so as a board member.


Ali Rizvi

Freelance Documentary Filmmaker


Please tell us about your journalism experience.

One time pulitzer winner. 4 Time Emmy loser. Video journalist for half a decade.

Please tell us about your previous experience working for a Board or volunteering for an organization, including advertising events, soliciting members, social media campaigns, etc.

I've been a SAJA member and board member for 2 years, and want to continue to serve the community.

Why do you want to run for the SAJA board?

I am a current SAJA board member whoʼs running for reelection. I place great value in SAJAʼs work regarding grants and scholarships to university and high school students interested in journalism. I took great pride in helping disburse those awards to those in need the most. Because of my efforts, journalist students of Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Indian, and Bangladeshi origin pursued dozens of stories about Southasia. I am proud of that fact.

Furthermore, as a documentary filmmaker, and Video journalist myself, I contribute to SAJAʼs video marketing collaterals raising awareness about the organization and itʼs goals. I also have made it a point to use my position on the board to try and get more people of South Asian origin, involved in video Journalism.

As a board member, I continue to keep up those efforts, and add more videos and explainer animations in the SAJA repertoire, which will help increase membership and maintain it.

Are you a member of any other journalism organizations?



Mythili Sampathkumar

Freelance Journalist


Please tell us about your journalism experience.

Journalism is my second career and by far the favorite. I started out as an older intern in the United Nations press corps and freelanced for a few years covering climate change, global development, business, and education. I then became a staff reporter for The Independent's NYC bureau where I covered a lot of US politics, foreign policy, and New York news. My other work and podcast appearances have been with the Fortune, LA Times, NBC News Asian America, Foreign Policy, Public Radio International, Teen Vogue, Vox, New Republic, The Hindu, and several niche outlets. I've had the opportunity to report from all over the US, Europe, Serbia, Morocco, Kenya, Peru, and India.

Please tell us about your previous experience working for a Board or volunteering for an organization, including advertising events, soliciting members, social media campaigns, etc.

I'm currently a volunteer Writing Tutor with City College, part of City University of New York. I work mostly with freshman and sophomore political science students who often come from lower-income neighborhoods or households where English is not their primary language. I have done training sessions for junior tutors and served as a mentor for student-tutors interested in a journalism career.

As a former member of the board of a small microfinance NGO in India, I helped organize fundraising events in the U.S. (for example, having a local bar donate portions of proceeds from a limited happy hour) and set up a social media presence on Facebook and other platforms. Due to charity rules in India, none of the women who were part of the organization were able to benefit from Kiva, the most popular micro-lending site. So, I found another similar site called which complied with tax rules and set up a micro-lending platform account for the organization on it. The process involved interviewing the women so I could write out their stories in English, taking pictures of their work and families, and showing potential lenders what kind of progress they had already made by selling their goods and services to the larger community where they were located in southern India.

Why do you want to run for the SAJA board?

I would like to join the SAJA board to give back to the community that raised me and continues to be an important part of my life. So many of us are often the ‘only one’ in newsrooms or organizations, but I would love to help keep SAJA as a welcoming community to combat some of that lack of diversity and isolation. I also want to amplify the voices of my diaspora colleagues, especially younger journalists or those writing for small and local news outlets. If I were able to be on the Board I think it would be wonderful to make SAJA’s social media presence more robust so it could be a resource for those looking to read more work from South Asian journalists but also news about the diaspora and region. It would be great to also host more events in NYC, like book talks with South Asian-American journalist-authors or panels on topics we could benefit from hearing about from South Asian experts: Kashmir, mental health, the role of Asian-American voters in the 2020 election. I think members might benefit from having the experience of another freelancer on the Board as well, especially since I went through the recent round of mass layoffs at the end of 2018. Being on the Board would be a great opportunity for me to learn more leadership skills from other Board members and mentors of the organization as well and to show solidarity with other groups like NABJ, NAHJ, and AAJA. 

Are you a member of any other journalism organizations?

AAJA, Deadline Club, Newswomen's Club of New York



Maher Sattar

Editor, CBS


Please tell us about your journalism experience.

I worked for 5 years as a broadcast correspondent for Al Jazeera English, and as a print reporter for The New York Times for 2 years. I also covered South and Southeast Asia as a freelance journalist for The Washington Post, The Guardian, GlobalPost, and others.

Please tell us about your previous experience working for a Board or volunteering for an organization, including advertising events, soliciting members, social media campaigns, etc.

I co-coordinated a fundraiser to help asylum seekers in Bangkok affected by the US's increasingly stringent refugee policies. We raised $4,000 in one night for an emergency housing and medical find for Asylum Access after a grassroots social media campaign leveraging not just friends and activists but also sympathetic local businesses and community institutions.

I've also volunteered with community organizations in New York doing voter registration among Bangladeshi-American citizens.

Why do you want to run for the board?

I'm keen to increase the presence of south Asian journalists in New York - there's a lot of us here now, and I've noticed that AAJA can be marginalizing if well-intentioned. I'd also love to improve contact and collaboration between South Asian-American journalists and South Asian journalists based in the subcontinent.

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