May 17, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP discovers torture, the rape of girls and the deliberate capsizing of a boat of Rohingya refugees

When the boat of about 140 Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Bangladesh and Myanmar capsized off Indonesia, killing 67 people, the media focused on the rescued and the dead. No one understood why or how the boat capsized. Kristen Gelineau, AP’s Sydney-based global investigations reporter, suspected something had gone very wrong; there were no reports of storms or engine problems. She received tips from two sources that there might have been sexual assaults on board the boat and the captain may have deliberately sunk it. She wanted answers from the survivors themselves.

With Gelineau providing direction from Sydney, Jakarta-based reporter Edna Tarigan flew to Indonesia’s Aceh province to team up with freelance photographer Reza Saifullah, who had photographed the rescue.

The Rohingya are challenging to interview due to their extreme levels of trauma, and the lone survivor of the captain’s sexual assaults was no exception. The 12-year-old girl shared her vital, exclusive account of the horrors on that boat. Over a shaky Zoom connection, a Rohingya translator dialed into the interviews.

The team guaranteed those who wanted anonymity that AP would protect their privacy, and those who were reluctant to be photographed by a man eventually came to trust Saifullah and that his photographs would respect that agreement if that was their wish.

For bringing AP readers the first and only account of the trauma suffered by this group of Rohingya refugees, the reporting by Gelineau, Tarigan and Saifullah is this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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April 26, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exclusive details how ERs are refusing to treat pregnant women after Roe v. Wade was overturned

In an exclusive based on documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, Washington-based health policy reporter Amanda Seitz reported on complaints that pregnant women were being turned away from emergency rooms in the months after Roe v. Wade was overturned, despite federal law requiring that they be treated.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act was seen as a safety net to ensure that pregnant women experiencing a medical emergency could get abortions in states where the procedure had been banned. But Seitz set out to find out if it really was. She submitted a FOIA request in February 2023 seeking information about pregnancy-related complaints under the federal law.

After almost a year of waiting, the FOIA office finally agreed to release records but said it would take another four years to get the documents. With a crucial U.S. Supreme Court case pending, Seitz negotiated a limited release of documents in certain states.

In March, she finally got what she was looking for: a rundown of complaints about violations in the months after Roe was overturned in 2022. The documents showed a spike in the number of complaints post-Roe and included horrific accounts of pregnant women receiving improper care. But they left open the question of what penalties ERs were facing for violating the law.

While many other news organizations wrote about the upcoming Supreme Court arguments on the EMTALA law, because of Seitz the AP was alone with the details about the complaints spiking. She is Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 05, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

36 days at sea: How castaways survived hallucinations, thirst and desperation

In a partner story to “Adrift,” an AP team tracked down migrants who survived 36 days and told the story of their journey.

When video journalist Renata Brito saw the news of the rescue of several dozen men who survived 36 days at sea, she was shocked. Brito has been covering migrant crossings for years and had never heard of people on the route from West Africa to the Canary Islands surviving that long. She wondered what they might have endured during those 36 days, and so, she and photographer Felipe Dana set out to find out.

When the survivors were rescued, they were taken to Cape Verde and locked up in a school. A few days later, Brito and Dana were on a plane to Cape Verde’s Sal Island. Access to survivors, who were essentially detained, was restricted and authorities announced they would fly them back to Dakar in a few hours.

Brito and Dana followed them there, working with AP Dakar colleague Ndeye Sene Mbengue to make contacts with survivors and their families in Fass Boye but found many of the survivors had gone into hiding after returning to Senegal.

Together with Ndeye, they drove to more than five towns across different regions to meet with them. With Ndeye’s help they translated hours of on- and off-camera interviews. Brito kept in touch with survivors after leaving Senegal and obtained the contact of one of the rescuers who had made several cellphone videos the day they were found and brought on board.

The AP got strong user-generated content that showed what the survivors looked like when they were found, barely alive. The result was an all-formats story, complete with an immersive presentation that included creative motion graphics and illustrations.

For powerfully telling an exclusive story that otherwise might not have been told, Brito and Dana win Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Dec. 22, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Team shines spotlight on underage Rohingya girls forced into abusive marriages

Underage Rohingya girls are forced into abusive marriages in Malaysia so their families in Bangladesh can eat. In safehouses, AP met with child brides who managed to get unlocked from their bedrooms to share their plights.

Human rights workers warned it would be almost impossible to track the girls down. Yet an AP team not only found them, but interviewed them without putting them at risk of reprisal.

Investigative correspondent Kristen Gelineau, based in Sydney, Australia, tracked down an advocate in Malaysia who was herself a Rohingya child bride and carefully coordinated a plan with each girl. Some concocted an excuse to leave their homes and met with AP at safehouses. Many simply could not get unlocked.

The team coordinated interview times with the girls so they could arrive at their homes after their husbands had left for work and leave well before they returned.

Indonesia video journalist and business correspondent Victoria Milko filmed in their dark and claustrophobic apartments, capturing both the youth and isolation of the girls while protecting their anonymity.

McKinnon de Kuyper made a heartbreaking edit of the video, taking advantage of previous filming of Rohingya families who were victims of a boat drowning by video journalist Garjon Al-emrun.

For allowing the AP to be the first media to give these girls a voice, Gelineau, Milko, de Kuyper and Al-emrun are Best of the Week — First Winners.

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Dec. 08, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Investigation uncovers private school selling diplomas, no classes required

In a package featuring multiple scoops and exclusives, an AP team investigating Louisiana’s rise in unapproved private schools stumbled on a school selling diplomas to anyone whose parents said they had completed their education — even years later. That revelation rocked the state and reverberated across the nation.

Education data reporter Sharon Lurye partnered with Charles Lussier of The (Louisiana) Advocate to secure stunning interviews with an operator of the school defending the practice as an extension of parents’ rights and also met multiple graduates who had gained their diplomas. On the other side of the investigation Lurye and Lussier demonstrated the depth of the risks in sending a child to such a school, landing a rare interview with a mom who says a teacher offered her teen daughter money for sexually explicit photos and wanted to warn others against enrolling their kids in an unapproved school.

Lurye and Lussier were the first to quantify the rise in popularity among Louisiana’s unapproved schools — over 21,000 students, nearly double the number before the pandemic. Many of the families using unapproved schools are homeschooling. But 30 of the schools have more than 50 students.

The project ran on the front page in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Arcadiana. Lurye did radio interviews on WWL in New Orleans and for the “Louisiana Considered” program on the public radio stations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Prominent pickups included Fox News, Newser and ABC News. The project was named one of the best stories of the week by “The Grade,” a well-read education blog.

For a strong investigation, securing multiple exclusives while providing a public service to the people of Louisiana, Lurye wins this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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