April 14, 2023
Best of the Week — First Winner
AP investigation uncovers brutal murder of a 16-year-old by Burkina Faso soldiers
A video in Burkina Faso showing men in military fatigues walking among the bloodied bodies of boys with their hands bound surfaced on social media in mid-February. A six-week AP project delivered a frame-by-frame analysis of the graphic, 83-second video of the killings and tracked down the relatives of one of the victims: Adama, a 16-year-old cattle herder, piecing together his final hours. A soldier smashed his head with a large rock.
Government officials denied involvement in the killings, but analysis by Global Investigative Reporter Michael Biesecker was able to show the soldiers were wearing uniforms and had vehicles consistent with members of the Burkinabe military. After West Africa Correspondent Sam Mednick got a tip, Biesecker was able to geolocate the killings to Camp Zondoma, a military base near Ouahigouya.
Mednick and her Ouagadougou translator located the teen’s family after people in the capital with ties to Ouahigouya connected them with Adama’s uncle, the first person willing to talk. The translator whose identity cannot be disclosed played a key role in getting the family to speak, despite great personal risk. Mednick persuaded the uncle to let her interview the boy’s mother, who was unaware that her son’s death had been filmed.
Visual journalist Marshall Ritzel produced a video highlighting the visual investigation and exclusive interviews with Adama’s family. An edit of the video by digital audiences producer McKinnon de Kuyper was among AP’s top social posts of the week.
For shining a spotlight on the sort of casual murder that takes place in countries around the world, Mednick, Biesecker, Ritzel, the anonymous translator in Ouagadougou and de Kuyper win this week’s first place best of the week.