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. Rajagopalan from BuzzFeed News is among two Indian-origin journalists who won the US’ top journalism award on Friday. ‘Tampa Bay Times’ Neil Bedi won for local reporting. 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. 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.” 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, 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, 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. Teen who recorded Floyd’s arrest, death wins Pulitzer nod: THE teenager who pulled out her cellphone and began recording when she saw George Floyd being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer was given a special citation by the Pulitzer Prizes for her video that helped to launch a global movement to protest racial injustice.
Darnella Frazier was cited on Friday “for courageously recording the murder of George Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality, around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice,” the Pulitzer Prizes said. Frazier was not giving interviews to the media, her publicist said on Friday. Frazier was 17 when she recorded the arrest and death of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, on May 25, 2020. She testified at the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin that she was walking to a corner grocery store to get snacks with her then-nine-year-old cousin when she saw a man being pinned to the pavement, “terrified, scared, begging for his life.” She said she didn’t want her cousin to see what was happening so she ushered the girl into the store then went back out to the sidewalk and began recording because “it wasn’t right.
He was suffering. He was in pain.” She kept recording even though she said she felt threatened when Chauvin ignored the cries of bystanders and pulled out his Mace as he knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, 29 seconds. Her video, which shows Floyd repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe before going limp, was posted to Facebook hours after it was recorded, sparking outrage in Minneapolis and beyond. It was also a prominent piece of evidence in Chauvin’s trial. Chauvin was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. He will be sentenced on June 25. The Pulitzer Board also announced on Friday that the Star Tribune of Minneapolis won the breaking news reporting prize for its coverage of Floyd’s murder and its aftermath. Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, said in a column for Nieman Lab last month that Frazier should win a Pulitzer for her video. Clark, who has been a Pulitzer juror five times, told The Associated Press on Friday that Frazier was like the many journalists or artists who have won Pulitzer Prizes for standing up for tolerance, equality and social justice.
“There she was, at 17, sort of witnessing an injustice and she stood there in the face of threats and captured that video,” he said, adding, “It would be hard to select, even from the work of professional journalists over recent years or decades, a 10-minute video that had as profound an impact as this young woman’s video did.” Frazier’s video was “globe shaking,” spoke truth to power and gave a voice to the voiceless, Clark said. It’s unusual but not unprecedented for the Pulitzer Board to award citizens who capture news events; the famous photo of a firefighter cradling an infant after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was taken by Charles Porter IV, a bank credit officer, and distributed by the AP. Clark said the special citation that Frazier received recognises exceptional work that falls outside specific award categories. The honour puts Frazier on a list with Ida B. Wells, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, for their response to a 2018 shooting in their newsroom. Frazier was also given the PEN/Benenson Courage Award last year by PEN America, a literary and human rights organisation. PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said at the time: “With nothing more than a cellphone and sheer guts, Darnella changed the course of history in this country, sparking a bold movement demanding an end to systemic anti-Black racism and violence at the hands of police.”
During her testimony at Chauvin’s trial, Frazier told jurors that she sometimes wishes she had done more to help Floyd. She said she looks at her father and other Black men in her life and thinks about “how that could have been one of them.” “It’s been nights I stayed up, apologising and apologising to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she testified, adding of Chauvin: “But it’s like, it’s not what I should’ve done, it’s what he should’ve done.” The three other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest are scheduled to face trial next year on aiding and abetting counts. All four officers are also charged with violating Floyd’s civil rights.