March 29, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exposes evidence that Burkina Faso security forces massacred civilians

West Africa Correspondent Sam Mednick obtained exclusive accounts from massacre survivors in the remote region of Zaongo in Burkina Faso.

Killings of civilians by security forces happen regularly in Burkina Faso yet are hardly reported amid a brutal war with jihadist rebels. Few survivors are brave enough to speak out and most flee, staying silent under a repressive regime. Government investigations are also rare, and no one is held accountable.

Mednick, who is based in Senegal, was looking into reports of one of many such violent incidents that she had seen video evidence of circulating in WhatsApp groups, when a source in Dakar said he had relatives who survived the massacre and could speak to her.

Through the trusted contact in Senegal, she was able to talk to a family that lived in the area and connect with survivors.

AP was the only media able to get the story and photos of this attack, one of several killings under investigation by the U.N. and government. To date, no one has been held accountable.

Washington-based newsperson Michael Biesecker was able to add reporting on Burkina’s military links to the U.S. and worked closely with Mednick from the start to develop the reporting.

For exposing a crime that was all but impossible to report on, Mednick and Biesecker’s story is Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP23111450747140

April 12, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP team springs into action after Ecuador raids Mexican embassy to arrest former VP

When the Ecuadorian government, under the orders of President Daniel Noboa, took the unprecedented action of storming the Mexican Embassy in Quito late on Friday, April 5, AP’s visual team based in the Andean city responded swiftly. They were on the ground during crucial moments of the significant event, which garnered global attention over the weekend and subsequent days.

Freelance video journalist Cesar Olmos and photojournalist Dolores Ochoa captured images and sound of the incensed embassy staff and rapidly filed images of military forces scaling the walls of the building as they entered and seized Jorge Glas, Ecuador’s former vice president, who had previously faced multiple corruption charges and sought refuge in the Mexican embassy several months prior to the raid.

In addition to securing the initial visuals, the AP team was quick to deliver across other formats to publish the details of this unprecedented event.

For comprehensive and quick work to report on the initial events and immediate fallout after an unprecedented international incident, Olmos, Ochoa, Regina Garcia Cano, Megan Janetsky, Gonzalo Solano, Gabriela Molina, David Biller and Sara Espana are Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP24097179430958

April 26, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exclusive details how ERs are refusing to treat pregnant women after Roe v. Wade was overturned

In an exclusive based on documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, Washington-based health policy reporter Amanda Seitz reported on complaints that pregnant women were being turned away from emergency rooms in the months after Roe v. Wade was overturned, despite federal law requiring that they be treated.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act was seen as a safety net to ensure that pregnant women experiencing a medical emergency could get abortions in states where the procedure had been banned. But Seitz set out to find out if it really was. She submitted a FOIA request in February 2023 seeking information about pregnancy-related complaints under the federal law.

After almost a year of waiting, the FOIA office finally agreed to release records but said it would take another four years to get the documents. With a crucial U.S. Supreme Court case pending, Seitz negotiated a limited release of documents in certain states.

In March, she finally got what she was looking for: a rundown of complaints about violations in the months after Roe was overturned in 2022. The documents showed a spike in the number of complaints post-Roe and included horrific accounts of pregnant women receiving improper care. But they left open the question of what penalties ERs were facing for violating the law.

While many other news organizations wrote about the upcoming Supreme Court arguments on the EMTALA law, because of Seitz the AP was alone with the details about the complaints spiking. She is Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP24109550353675

May 03, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

Rare multiformat interview with Hamas leader breaks news

In an exclusive interview with AP, a high-ranking Hamas political official for the first time suggested that the militant group would put down its weapons with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, acknowledging that a two-state solution could be possible even if temporarily.

The interview, which came at a crucial time in Gaza ceasefire negotiations, was the result of persistence by AP staff and collaboration between the Beirut and Istanbul teams.

Having dealt with Hamas officials in Beirut regularly on stories before and after Oct. 7, Lebanon/Syria/Iraq news director Abby Sewell had requested an interview with one of Hamas’ senior officials, Moussa Abu Marzouk, and was told it would be granted and would take place in Istanbul.

While she was awaiting confirmation of the date, Hamas’ top political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, showed up in Turkey and met with the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

At that point, Istanbul-based photographer Khalil Hamra, originally from Gaza, suggested using his contacts to aim for the highest-ranking possible interview.

For persistence and collaboration to win a scoop on one of the world’s most pressing stories, Sewell, Hamra and Guzel are Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP24115662305217

May 17, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP discovers torture, the rape of girls and the deliberate capsizing of a boat of Rohingya refugees

When the boat of about 140 Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Bangladesh and Myanmar capsized off Indonesia, killing 67 people, the media focused on the rescued and the dead. No one understood why or how the boat capsized. Kristen Gelineau, AP’s Sydney-based global investigations reporter, suspected something had gone very wrong; there were no reports of storms or engine problems. She received tips from two sources that there might have been sexual assaults on board the boat and the captain may have deliberately sunk it. She wanted answers from the survivors themselves.

With Gelineau providing direction from Sydney, Jakarta-based reporter Edna Tarigan flew to Indonesia’s Aceh province to team up with freelance photographer Reza Saifullah, who had photographed the rescue.

The Rohingya are challenging to interview due to their extreme levels of trauma, and the lone survivor of the captain’s sexual assaults was no exception. The 12-year-old girl shared her vital, exclusive account of the horrors on that boat. Over a shaky Zoom connection, a Rohingya translator dialed into the interviews.

The team guaranteed those who wanted anonymity that AP would protect their privacy, and those who were reluctant to be photographed by a man eventually came to trust Saifullah and that his photographs would respect that agreement if that was their wish.

For bringing AP readers the first and only account of the trauma suffered by this group of Rohingya refugees, the reporting by Gelineau, Tarigan and Saifullah is this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

AP24124810620796