February 16, 2016
NEW YORK - Four journalists from The Associated Press are among the winners of the 67th annual George Polk Awards in Journalism for a series of articles documenting the use of slave labor in the commercial seafood industry in Indonesia and Thailand.
The AP reporters, Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan, will share the award for foreign reporting with Ian Urbina of The New York Times, for a separate series portraying widespread lawlessness at sea.
The awards were announced Sunday by Long Island University.
Journalists who wrote about segregated schools, killings by police officers and Bill Cosby's accusers were also honored for their work in 2015.
The AP journalists documented how men from Myanmar and other countries were being imprisoned, sometimes in cages, in an island village in Indonesia and forced to work on vessels that sent seafood to Thailand. The project involved interviewing captives and tracking slave-caught seafood to processing plants that supply supermarkets, restaurants and pet stores in the U.S.
After some trawlers fled the island following publication of the initial investigation, the AP tracked the vessels using satellite technology to a strait in Papua New Guinea. Subsequent AP reports detailed the use of slave labor in processing shrimp.
More than 2,000 enslaved fishermen were freed after officials took action as a result of the AP's reporting.
The Polk Awards were created in 1949 in honor of CBS reporter George W. Polk, who was killed while covering the Greek civil war. This year's awards will be given out April 18. Charlayne Hunter-Gault will read the citations at the ceremony.
Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the AP, called the four AP journalists "incredibly brave and tenacious."
"Their painstaking work directly linked the horror of slavery to America's grocery shelves and has led to real and substantial change," Carroll said. "Most important, more than 2,000 enslaved fishermen have been freed specifically because of what these journalists exposed." - AP
The Express Tribune, January 16, 2018