June 04, 2021

Best of the Week

Unique AP visual investigation reveals Myanmar's junta using bodies to terrorize civilians

The video was startling: As a motorcycle carrying three men speeds down a city street in Myanmar, a soldier traveling in the back of a pickup truck opens fire. A man falls to the ground, mortally wounded, while the other two run away. 

Investigative reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason found that the video was one of many seeming to show the military firing at civilians indiscriminately in the wake of February’s coup. They also noticed that security forces appear to go out of their way to mutilate and drag bodies in the street, seemingly to terrorize the populace. The pair teamed up with the Human Rights Center Investigations Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, applying cutting-edge image analysis to thousands of social media posts and images online to reveal how the junta in Myanmar was using the bodies as tools of terror, according to human rights activists. 

With important contributions by Southeast Asia news director Kiko Rosario, and video by Manuel Valdes, the piece received more than 53,000 views on AP platforms.

For finding a way to analyze visual data from one of the world’s most secretive countries and presenting it in a rich and compelling multiformat narrative, McDowell, Mason, Rosario and Valdes earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

Myanmar 2000

May 14, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Myanmar military is disappearing young men to crush uprising

were the first to report that Myanmar’s military had abducted thousands, especially young men and boys, in a bid to break the back of the three-month uprising against the country’s military coup.The story was difficult to report, given the military's targeting of journalists in Myanmar and the fact that the junta keeps cutting internet access. Milko and Gelineau worked with a brave stringer in Myanmar who identified more than 20 cases of abductions. Those, along with the contributions of another courageous stringer, supplied the story’s main subjects. The pair also analyzed more than 3,500 arrests collected by a non-profit group, revealing that many of the disappeared were young men and boys, and that in most cases their families did not know where they were.The story broke ground not only in terms of news, but in the previously unreported depth and detail of the cases they described. Milko and Gelineau also took particular care not to put either our staffers or our sources into danger. Their reporting did not rely on our staff in Myanmar, and they used Milko’s location, Jakarta, as the dateline. They also used partial names for most of the subjects to protect them from retaliation.The story was among the top 10 on the AP News app and generated strong reactions from observers, readers and, significantly, Myanmar’s military, which was concerned enough to hold two rare news conferences: one when AP asked for comment and another after the story ran, with Gelineau the only reporter present from a Western news organization. https://aplink.news/xzz

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