Jan. 05, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP investigates Russia’s cover-up of deaths caused by dam explosion in Ukraine

More than six months after the explosion that destroyed the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine’s Kherson region, an AP investigation by Samya Kullab and Ilia Novikov found that Russian occupation authorities vastly and deliberately undercounted the dead. The AP inquiry came the closest yet to revealing the real number of deaths Russia tried to hide from the dam’s destruction, which Ukrainians believe was carried out to hamper the Ukrainian counteroffensive across the Dnipro River. Russia has denied it was responsible.

AP Kyiv correspondent Kullab and news assistant Novikov were working on a different story about how residents of the affected town of Oleshky were returning slowly to Ukraine. During their reporting, a source told them of a mass grave. That sent Kullab and Novikov in a fresh direction, and the story of the hidden deaths developed from there. Eventually, the AP spoke to health workers, volunteers, residents and recent escapees who provided invaluable details. Instead of the 59 people Russian authorities said drowned in the territory they control, AP found the real number is at least in the hundreds in just one town.

For dogged pursuit of the facts and allowing victims and their survivors to be heard, Kullab and Novikov earn 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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Nov. 10, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Intimate reporting and stunning access show how the housing crisis has created missing students 

For the past year, education writer Bianca Vázquez Toness took on the difficult reporting task of finding students who have slipped through the cracks since the pandemic, and looked to Los Angeles, where advocates say the housing crisis is causing students to go missing from school.

She met a homeless mother renting space in strangers’ apartments, sleeping on a twin bed with her two children. The situation had devastated the teenage son Deneffy’s mental health and school performance.

After multiple visits to LA to meet Deneffy’s mother, and eventually Deneffy himself, he confided in Toness, allowing her to capture their narrative.

Photographer Jae C. Hong waited weeks for the family to feel safe having him inside, capturing powerful visuals when he was able to. Illustrations by Peter Hamlin anchored the story’s presentation. Eunice Esomonu put the Spanish version of the story in the immersive design, a first for AP.

Education journalists and readers alike have reached out to share how remarkable and powerful they found Toness’ reporting.

For building trust and cinematic reporting that showed the great lengths homeless kids must go to attend school, Best of the Week — First Winner is awarded to Bianca Vázquez Toness and Jae C. Hong.

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Sept. 22, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP’s team reporting alerts the world to Libya’s disastrous floods

Years of reporting on Libya from afar and a local freelancer’s willingness to travel treacherous roads allowed AP’s team to alert the world about a disaster of massive proportions, after heavy floods burst two dams above the city of Derna, washing away and killing thousands.

It took nearly 24 hours for news to emerge from Libya of the deadly floods. But with the country divided between rival governments with spotty records for accuracy, it was tricky to grasp the extent of the devastation.

When one of the governments reported more than 2,000 dead and counting, Libya video producer Adel Omran was the first to alert the team, after which Cairo reporter Samy Magdy called contacts in the health care and aid community, who confirmed that toll and said it was likely to rise.

Misrata-based freelance photographer Yousef Murad drove hours to the scene, sending an initial dispatch showing mass burials for the rising number of bodies. On the ground, Murad faced difficult conditions and lack of basic amenities as the stench of death overtook the city. His subsequent stories documented the immense recovery effort and the stories of survivors.

For their harrowing work revealing a complex story of disaster and recovery, Magdy, Murad and Omran are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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