March 01, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

A leaked trove of documents opens a rare window into Chinese hacking practices

China has long used hacking as a political and law-enforcement tool to put eyes on dissidents, governments and other people it wants to watch. Because of Associated Press reporting efforts, the picture of how that is done — and what it might mean — is a bit clearer now. On Feb. 19, multiple sources alerted China investigative correspondent Dake Kang to a newly discovered leak of documents from a Chinese police contractor that revealed the company was hacking the networks of over a dozen foreign governments for the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. The documents revealed how these hackers-for-hire operations worked, which systems they targeted, what tools they used and how they assisted police in the surveillance and harassment of dissidents and oppressed ethnicities even outside China’s borders. The documents had been published online by an unknown source, and no other major media outlet had picked up on it yet. But how to verify? Kang, who at the time happened to be in the western Chinese city of Chengdu, was en route to the airport to return to Beijing when he was browsing the contractor’s website. One of their addresses was right there, just a 40-minute drive from the airport. Kang canceled his flight, hopped into a cab and headed to the company’s offices. U.S.-based technology reporter Frank Bajak simultaneously jumped on the story, contacting cybersecurity analysts, many of whom said they thought it was authentic. The following morning, Kang returned to the company where two employees confirmed the leak. With effective communication and swift editing, the story made it to the wire during U.S. daytime.  

The cross-continental teamwork and speed paid off. The AP was first among major competitors to put the story out, with others following hours later — some of them using AP’s exclusive photos.  

For a quick and concerted scramble that leveraged differing forms of AP expertise, touched multiple continents and delivered precision on deadline, Kang and Bajak are this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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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.

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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.

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March 15, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP shows itself best of class in election coverage Super Tuesday

In the runup to Super Tuesday, The Associated Press showed why it’s at the top of the class when it comes to elections coverage.

As Super Tuesday neared, the AP had an issue on its hands: how will it call races that night when it would have no VoteCast poll — but the TV networks had their exit polling, which could have put the AP at a competitive disadvantage? Serena Hawkins, data scientist for AP’s Decision Team, got to work.

In just two weeks, she researched, developed, tested and deployed a new approach to race calling that allowed the AP to declare Donald Trump and Joe Biden winners in several states with a very small return of counted votes.

That new model, used by the AP on Super Tuesday, put AP’s race calls ahead in states where the TV networks didn’t have a poll, and only a few minutes behind in states where they did — and with no errors in its calls.

Meanwhile, the AP, for the first time, was able to deliver its vote count directly to news consumers through a new immersive elections experience on APNews.

The effort was captained by development lead Linda Gorman, with team members Ryan Best, Michelle Minkoff Carlson, Chaithra Chandraiah, Shelly Cheng, Chad Day, Phil Holm, Dan Kempton, Humera Lodhi, Maya Sweedler, Pablo Barria Urenda and Robert Weston. On the night of Super Tuesday, the recirculation rate for these pages was, in a word, stratospheric.

For all these reasons, Serena Hawkins and the Elections Data Visualizations Team are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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Jan. 26, 2024

Best of the Week — First Winner

Modi opens Hindu temple built on ruins on razed mosque, in political triumph for prime minister

AP’s team in India provided visually compelling, richly reported, all-format coverage of one of the country’s most defining and contentious events, the opening of a controversial Hindu temple built on a razed mosque.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened a controversial Hindu temple, it marked a political triumph for the populist leader under whose watch the line between religion and state has largely eroded in the constitutionally secular country. The temple sits on a site where Hindu mobs tore down a mosque three decades ago, its fraught history still an open wound for many Muslims.

AP’s cross-format team in Delhi and on ground in Ayodhya provided visually rich and nuanced coverage that was both thoughtful and insightful. Photographer Rajesh Kumar Singh was the only international photographer who managed to secure access to the high-security temple complex to exclusively cover the select gathering of invitees and arrival of Modi. AP was first among the global agencies to file self-shot images of the event while other agencies had to rely on handout images.

Singh, senior video journalist Rishi Lekhi, and stringer Biswajeet Banerjee kept the inputs steadily flowing in from Ayodhya, including live coverage from outside the venue, while Shonal Ganguly, Saaliq Sheikh and Krutika Pathi in Delhi helped with a quick turnaround of both text and video edits, enriching them with useful background and voices of ordinary Indians.

For playing a key role in bringing images of this momentous event to global audiences — and putting it in context — Rajesh Kumar Singh, Rishi Lekhi, Biswajeet Banerjee, Sheikh Saaliq, Shonal Ganguly and Krutika Pathi are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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