Aug. 27, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Intrepid AP journalists work the streets of Kabul documenting Taliban troops, daily life

When the Taliban overran Kabul on Aug. 15, no one in the city knew if the Taliban would resume the brutal practices that carried them to power in 1996 — or would they show some restraint?

Kabul video journalist Ahmad Seir and photographer Rahmat Gul remember the previous Taliban rule, but like their AP colleagues, they were determined to record history. The pair took to the streets. Despite being beaten with rifle butts at a Taliban checkpoint near the airport, they persisted, eventually gaining the trust of Taliban fighters at a checkpoint near AP’s office. Seir and Gul went on Taliban patrols, delivering unique video and photos of the militiamen now in command of Afghanistan.

Those rare images, along with spot features that included daily life in the capital and an interview with a female activist now in hiding, played at the very top of AP’s offerings for the week and reflected the tireless efforts of everyone in AP’s Kabul office who pushed aside their own fears and personal concerns to continue reporting in all formats.

For their historic and important work, thorough professionalism and unbound bravery, Seir and Gul share AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Oct. 15, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP all-formats team gets rare, exclusive access to Taliban crackdown on drug users

From a fetid bridge underpass frequented by addicts, to a police station, to a grim drug detoxification ward, this all-formats package driven by powerful visuals takes a stunning look at Afghanistan’s drug underworld and the severe treatment of heavy drug users by the Taliban. The work also bears witness to AP’s robust reporting from Afghanistan, which has continued unabated since the Taliban takeover.

Video journalist Mstyslav Chernov, photographer Felipe Dana and correspondent Samya Kullab, all currently on assignment in Kabul, gained rare access to this especially bleak segment of Afghan life, earning the trust of street addicts and, through a combination of persistence and luck, documenting Taliban detention of users, all amid a difficult and dangerous environment for journalists.For a rare exclusive that sets a high standard for coverage while shedding light on a harsh reality in Afghanistan, the team of Chernov, Dana and Kullab is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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July 16, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: US leaves Bagram base; Afghans left in the dark

were quick to deliver an all-formats look — and an exclusive — from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan after the U.S. departure from the base that served for nearly 20 years as the epicenter of America’s war to unseat the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaida.Media around the world were watching for the U.S. withdrawal from Bagram, but Gannon, AP’s Afghanistan/Pakistan news director with decades of hard-won experience in the region, broke news. First, she pressed for access to the base after the U.S. military's July 2 departure. Joined by Kabul-based video journalist Amin and photographer Gul, the trio were granted access on July 5 and arrived to provide a rare glimpse of what had been the largest U.S. military base in the country.But that access was only one element of the story. The new Afghan commander of Bagram was initially reluctant to share details about how he and his troops took control of the base. Gannon told him there had been rumors about looting, and with her persistent questioning, the commander finally shared the full story: U.S. troops left quietly, switched off the lights and never bothered to tell the Afghan military that they were gone. The gap of two hours between the U.S. departure and the arrival of the Afghan military at Bagram enabled looters to sneak into the once heavily guarded base.The story made a splash, with Gannon fielding interview requests from major news outlets to describe what she had seen and heard at Bagram. The Pentagon, facing criticism after Gannon’s story appeared, later said the Afghans had been informed two days in advance of the U.S. intention to leave, but that the precise hour was left secret for security reasons. The team’s all-formats reporting provided an early look at the post-U.S. era in Afghanistan, in a package that was stunning for its detail and news value.https://aplink.news/95ehttps://aplink.video/odbhttps://aplink.video/5bq

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Aug. 20, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Dual winners: Resourceful AP teams deliver smart, fast, exclusive coverage in Afghanistan, Haiti

From Afghanistan to Haiti, AP staffers and stringers on two sides of the world were challenged last week to cover fast-breaking news while keeping themselves and their families safe. They excelled at both; AP’s coverage of Afghanistan’s fall to Taliban insurgents and the deadly earthquake across Haiti share Best of the Week honors.

In Afghanistan, with events unfolding at a breakneck pace, AP journalists amid the turmoil on the ground were complemented by colleagues in several countries and time zones collaborating to confirm the news and get it out.

AP sent out 17 alerts on Sunday alone, as city after city surrendered to the Taliban. And AP was among the first — perhaps the outright first — to report that President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country and Taliban forces were entering the capital.

That same weekend, when a powerful magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck southwestern Haiti leaving hundreds dead, AP journalists on the island scrambled to get to the area within hours. Editors outside Haiti jumped in to help gather and verify content, and a second team arrived in-country within a day to reinforce the coverage. AP stood out in all formats, including first live video of the disaster and photos that landed on front pages.

For outstanding breaking news coverage under extreme circumstances, the AP team in Afghanistan with their international colleagues, and the AP team covering Haiti — Pierre Luxama, Evens Sanon, Joseph Odelyn, Mark Stevenson, Fernando Llano, Matías Delacroix, Marko Alvarez and Fernando González — are co-winners of AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Sept. 03, 2021

Best of the Week — First Winner

Washington team breaks multiple stories; keeps AP ahead during Afghanistan withdrawal

As AP’s staff in Afghanistan grappled with the turmoil of the U.S. evacuation, an AP trio half a world away — Pentagon reporters Bob Burns and Lita Baldor and State Department reporter Matt Lee, with contributions by colleagues — set the standard, breaking news on the month’s most competitive story.

Whether posing tough questions at government briefings or getting the deeper story through one-on-one reporting, the reporters turned out crisp stories that were fair, accurate and authoritative. From the eyebrow-raising visit of two U.S. lawmakers, to the suicide bombing outside Kabul’s airport, to analysis of the ultimate beneficiary of America’s $83 billion expenditure, their coverage kept AP consistently out front.

For repeatedly scooping the competition and setting the news agenda on the closely watched, fast-developing events in Afghanistan, the team of Bob Burns, Lita Baldor and Matthew Lee is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Sept. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Rescue groups tell AP: US missed hundreds still in Afghanistan

delivered the most detailed look yet into the true toll of the Americans still in Afghanistan after the U.S. pullout, fact-checking the Biden administration’s estimate that no more than 200 American citizens were left behind. Rather than take the administration’s estimate at face value, the pair reported on the independent experiences of veteran-led rescue groups and members of Congress who say the figure is too low and also overlooks hundreds of others they consider to be equally American: permanent legal residents with green cards.The leader of one volunteer group told AP that the official count of U.S. citizens is off by hundreds, and California Rep. Darrell Issa, said the calls his office is receiving lead him to estimate the true toll of U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan is about 500.As for green card holders — who have lived in the U.S. for years, paid taxes, owned property and often have children who are U.S. citizens — the true number who want to get out is in the hundreds and perhaps more than 1,000, according to rescue groups and lawmakers. San Diego reporter Watson and New York investigative reporter Condon highlighted the plight of one family of green card holders who lived in Sacramento for years and who have been texting daily with their children’s elementary school principal while trying to escape Afghanistan. “I’m loosing the hope,” texted the mother.AP’s story, with contributions from Kathy Gannon in Kabul and Matt Lee in Washington, was among the most-read on the AP News app on the Labor Day holiday weekend and was featured prominently on major news sites. https://aplink.news/3yy

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