On Monday, 14 April 2014, Reuters was awarded its first-ever Pulitzer Prize for text reporting for the series, “The War on the Rohingya” The Pulitzer committee recognized Reuters reporters Jason Szep, Andrew R.C. Marshall and team for “their courageous reports on the violent persecution of” Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya.
The nomination letter:
For two years, Reuters reporters have been tirelessly investigating a conflict in a forgotten corner of the Muslim world: the dirty war against the Rohingya of Myanmar.
The Rohingya are a stateless and friendless Muslim people living in Myanmar and Bangladesh, and their oppression has triggered one the biggest movements of boat people since the Vietnam War. Reporters Jason Szep and Andrew R.C. Marshall in 2012 documented how majority-Buddhist Myanmar’s democratization was unleashing long-suppressed hatreds. In one report, they exposed how a Buddhist-nationalist political party organized the country’s bloodiest pogroms in decades, amounting to ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. Myanmar ignored these abuses as it drew praise abroad for its shift from dictatorship.
They stayed on the story in 2013, producing powerful investigations that brought the international dimensions of this overlooked injustice to world attention. Two stories uncovered evidence of Thai government involvement in the trafficking and abuse of Rohingya Muslims who were seeking haven abroad. The news had dramatic impact: Citing Reuters coverage, Thai police in late January this year rescued hundreds of refugees held at a human-trafficking camp and arrested three suspected trafficking ringleaders.
Each story submitted here required extensive and often dangerous field work in several countries, including remote, rarely traveled areas of Myanmar and next-door Thailand.
The April 8 story, “Buddhist monks incite Muslim killings in Myanmar,” revealed a massacre of Muslims in the city of Meikhtila. Reuters was the first news organization to report and reconstruct the March 21 massacre
of at least 25 Muslims, including children. The story uncovered a mass grave where bodies were being burned, prompting a follow-up investigation by New York-based Physicians for Human Rights. The challenges were formidable. When Szep arrived, on March 25, the killers were still on the streets. Some tried to intimidate the journalists, warning them away from certain areas. Soldiers refused to let Szep speak with Muslims at refugee centers. Some survivors would speak only in dark alleyways. It took weeks or months for rival news organizations to produce similar accounts.
Szep’s May 15 story, “In Myanmar, apartheid tactics against minority Muslims,” revealed how tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya were kept in permanent, prison-like ghettos near the city of Sittwe in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Szep and a Reuters photographer concealed themselves in a motorized trishaw to enter Sittwe’s last remaining Muslim quarter, which was locked down by soldiers. Szep skirted the barricaded checkpoints to document the rise of apartheid in modern-day Myanmar.