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PIO Megha wins Pulitzer for exposing China detention camps

PIO Megha wins Pulitzer for exposing China detention camps
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PIO Megha wins Pulitzer for exposing China detention camps 

Highlights

Megha Rajagopalan's Xinjiang series won the Pulitzer Prize in the International Reporting category. Minutes after she won, she said she wasn't even watching the ceremony live because she wasn't expecting to win. She only found out when she received a call!

New York: Megha Rajagopalan, an Indian-origin journalist, along with two contributors, has won the Pulitzer Prize for innovative investigative reports that exposed a vast infrastructure of prisons and mass internment camps secretly built by China for detaining hundreds of thousands of Muslims in its restive Xinjiang region.

Megha Rajagopalan from BuzzFeed News is among two Indian-origin journalists who won the US's top journalism award on Friday.

Tampa Bay Times'' Neil Bedi won for local reporting. Neil Bedi along with Kathleen McGrory has been awarded the prize for the series exposing a Sheriff's Office initiative that used computer modelling to identify people believed to be future crime suspects. About 1,000 people were monitored under the programme, including children.

Neil Bedi is an investigative reporter for the Tampa Bay Times.

"What Kathleen and Neil unearthed in Pasco County has had a profound impact on the community," said Mark Katches, Times executive editor. "This is what the best investigative journalism can do and why it is so essential."

Megha Rajagopalan's Xinjiang series won the Pulitzer Prize in the International Reporting category.

In 2017, not long after China began to detain thousands of Muslims in Xinjiang, Megha Rajagopalan was the first to visit an internment camp - at a time when China denied that such places existed, BuzzFeed News said. "In response, the government tried to silence her, revoking her visa and ejecting her from the country," BuzzFeed News wrote in its entry for the prize.

"It would go on to cut off access to the entire region for most Westerners and stymie journalists. The release of basic facts about detainees slowed to a trickle."

Working from London, and refusing to be silenced, Megha Rajagopalan partnered with two contributors, Alison Killing, a licensed architect who specialises in forensic analysis of architecture and satellite images of buildings, and Christo Buschek, a programmer who builds tools tailored for data journalists.

"The blazing Xinjiang stories shine desperately needed light on one of the worst human rights abuses of our time," said Mark Schoofs, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News.

Minutes after she won, Megha Rajagopalan told BuzzFeed News she wasn't even watching the ceremony live because she wasn't expecting to win. She only found out when Schoofs called to congratulate her on the victory.

"I'm in complete shock, I did not expect this," Megha Rajagopalan said over the phone from London. She said she was deeply grateful to the teams of people who worked with her on this including her collaborators, Killing and Buschek, her editor Alex Campbell, BuzzFeed News'' public relations team, and the organisations that funded their work, including the Pulitzer Center.

Megha Rajagopalan also acknowledged the courage of the sources who spoke to them despite the risk and threat of retaliation against them and their families. "I'm so grateful they stood up and were willing to talk to us," she said. "It takes so much unbelievable courage to do that."

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