Best of the AP

Best of the Week - First Winner May 26, 2023

The secret networks that circumvent Honduras’ abortion ban: How an AP team documented the invisible


For years, AP Mexico photo stringer Ginnette Riquelme was aware of clandestine networks helping women obtain abortions in Honduras, where they are banned under all circumstances.   

The locations were hidden, the phones untraceable, the contacts used code words to communicate. But Riquelme had a vision of how — and why — to document something that is both illegal and heavily stigmatized. With a grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation, she joined forces with Honduran journalist Iolany Pérez in El Progreso and Mexico City reporter María Verza.   

Persistence and the ability to build the trust of more than a dozen women who helped or had received the networks’ assistance resulted in a previously unseen composite of an underground system built up over years of prohibition.   

For journalism that illustrates the invisible, and in-depth and unmatched coverage of an issue that resonates far outside Honduras, this team earns Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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Best of the Week - Second Winner May 26, 2023

China’s loans pushing world’s poorest countries to brink of collapse


Bernard Condon spent weeks reporting, digging through arcane records and working with academic “loan sleuths” to uncover the emerging threat to poor countries from the burden of foreign debt, much of it from the world’s biggest and unforgiving lender, China.

The investigation looked systematically at the dozen poor countries most indebted to China — including Pakistan, Kenya, Zambia, Laos and Mongolia. He found they had as much as 50 percent of their foreign loans from China and most were devoting more than a third of government tax revenue to pay off foreign debt, forcing deep cuts to such basic services as keeping schools open, providing electricity, and paying for food and fuel.  

Condon found that debt is draining the foreign currency reserves these poor countries use to pay interest on those loans, calculating that some countries have just months left before that money is gone. And perhaps most significantly, Condon found China’s reluctance to forgive debt, its extreme secrecy about how much money it has loaned and tactics to put itself at the front of the line to be paid are all working to hinder other major lenders from stepping in to help.  

To report this complex story, Condon enlisted the help of a team of experts and academics who specialized in uncovering Chinese debt, including William & Mary professor Brad Parks, who recently found at least $385 billion of hidden and underreported Chinese debt in 88 countries. They were able to help Condon explain in understandable language the tactics China uses to maintain such secrecy and to push it to the head of the line of creditors to be paid. Condon also packed his story with plenty of examples of how this emerging crisis is playing out in blackouts, factory shutdowns and cuts to welfare.  

For ambitious, hard-nosed reporting that resulted in a story with global impact, Condon earns Best of the Week — Second Winner.

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