BuzzFeed News Wins For Detention Inquiry In China

BuzzFeed News won a Pulitzer Prize Friday for a series of innovative articles that used satellite images, 3D architectural models, and bold in-person interviews to showcase China’s vast infrastructure for detaining hundreds of thousands of Muslims in their Xinjiang region. The Pulitzer Prize is the highest honor in journalism, and this is the digital outlet’s first victory since its founding in 2012.

And the FinCEN Files Series by BuzzFeed News and the International Consortium of Journalists, the largest investigative report project ever conducted, which highlighted corruption in the global banking industry, has been honored as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A former U.S. Treasury official has been sentenced to prison just last week to filter the thousands of secret government documents that have served as genesis.

The Xinjiang series won in the International Reporting category and was recognized as a finalist in the Explanatory Reporting category, and FinCEN Files was recognized as a finalist in the International Reporting category. This is the third time that BuzzFeed News is a Pulitzer finalist.

In 2017, shortly after China began detaining thousands of Muslims in Xinjiang, BuzzFeed News journalist Megha Rajagopalan was the first to visit an internment camp – at a time when China has denied that such places exist.

“In response, the government tried to silence her, revoking her visa and driving her out of the village“, BuzzFeed News wrote in its entry for the award.” It will continue to cut access to the entire region for most Western and stymie journalists. The release of basic facts about detainees has been slowed to a flood. ”

Working from London, and refusing to be silent, Rajagopalan has partnered with two contributors, Alison Killing, a licensed architect who specializes in forensic analysis of the architecture and satellite imagery of buildings, and Christo Buschek, a programmer who build tools suitable for data journalists.

“Xinjiang’s burning stories shine desperately needed on one of the worst human rights abuses of our time,” said Mark Schoofs, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News. “I am immensely proud of Megha – who was expelled from China but has always found ways to cover this critical story – and also Alison and Christo for their courageous and heartbreaking investigation, a prime example of innovative forensic analysis and creative reporting. . “

They set out to analyze thousands of satellite images of the Xinjiang region, a larger area of ​​Alaska, to try to answer a simple question: Where were the Chinese officials holding as many as 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others? Muslim minority?

For months, the trio compared censored Chinese images to uncensored mapping software. They started with a huge data set of 50,000 locations. Buschek has built a custom tool for selecting these images. Then, “the team had to go through thousands of images one by one, checking several of the sites against other available evidence,” BuzzFeed News wrote in its award-winning entry.

Finally they identified more than 260 structures that looked like fortified detention camps. Some of the sites were able to hold more than 10,000 people and some content factories where prisoners were forced to work.

Revolutionary technological signaling has also been accompanied in a vast way in the old days Journalism “shoe leather”.

Away from China, Rajagopalan traveled instead to his neighbor Kazakhstan, a country known for its authoritarian impulses, where many Chinese Muslims sought refuge. Here, Rajagopalan located more than two dozen people who had been imprisoned in the Xinjiang camps, gaining their trust and convincing them to share their nightmarish accounts with the world.

An article caught readers in one of the fields, which has been described in unprecedented vivid detail by survivors ’accounts and then rendered, thanks to Killing’s architectural skills, in a 3D model.

“Throughout his report, Rajagopalan had to endure harassment from the Chinese government, which had persisted in forcing her to pack up her apartment in Beijing shortly after,” the award reads. At one point, “the Chinese government posted its personal information, including a government identification number, on Twitter.”

Ultimately, the four-story series painted a doomed and detailed picture of China’s terrible detention and treatment of its Muslim citizens, which major Western nations have labeled a genocide and a crime against humanity.

BuzzFeed News ’second honor went to FinCEN Files, named a finalist in the International Reporting category.

This series, billed as the largest reporting project in history, has seen more than 100 news organizations in 88 countries collaborate on a series of stories for 16 months.

It all started in 2017 when BuzzFeed News journalist Jason Leopold received a large cache of secret US government documents from a source. The documents included more than 2,100 reports of suspicious activity, or SARs, which are secret documents presented by banks to warn the government of potentially criminal activity. Few have ever been seen by the public.

In partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, BuzzFeed News and editorial staff in collaboration for the documents, narrative sections that were 3 million words long – 14 times the length of the novel Moby-Dick. Then they checked everything, three times. The process took more than a year to complete.

In addition, journalists conducted hundreds of interviews around the globe, obtained branches of internal banking data and thousands of pages of public records, and presented dozens of requests for the Freedom of Information Act and several causes of public records.

The investigation revealed, among other things, how five giants of the global banking industry – JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon – have exploited the rights to shady transactions involving drug smugglers. and terrorists.

The global response to stories revealing the torrent of dirty money has been profound. FinCEN files have been accredited to have given a final boost to the passage’s success sweep anti-money laundering legislation in the United States. Legislators from the UK to the EU, from Thailand to Liberia, have also had their questions.

“The FinCEN Files,” Schoofs said, “took a financial report to nine highs. Jason received an unprecedented find of secret government documents from a good source, Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, who was recently sentenced to prison. Based on these invaluable documents, a monumental reporting effort across the globe has revealed how large banks have profited from sporadic money flowing through their accounts, while the U.S. government watched but rarely acted. .

Last week, former Treasury Department official Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards was sentenced to six months in prison for leaking highly confidential bank documents to Leopold. Edwards – a former adviser in the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN – has not been accused of leaking documents that served as the basis for the FinCEN File series, but admitted it after his sentencing .

BuzzFeed News Editor-in-Chief Mark Schoofs, who he won a Pulitzer himself in 2000 for international reports, he wrote a opinion piece for the New York Times Thursday, asking President Joe Biden to pardon Edwards in recognition of the enormous corruption exposed by his actions.

The 11 current and former BuzzFeed News journalists honored by the Pulitzer committee for the FinCEN series were Leopold, Anthony Cormier, John Templon, Tom Warren, Jeremy Singer-Vine, Scott Pham, Richard Holmes, Azeen Ghorayshi, Michael Sallah, Tanya Kozyreva, and Emma Loop.

This is the third time that BuzzFeed News has been listed as a Pulitzer finalist. In 2018, the outlet was a finalist for international information for a series of stories that linked more than a dozen deaths in the United States and the United Kingdom to a assassination program targeted by the Kremlin. A year earlier, BuzzFeed News was honored as a finalist in the same category for a survey that revealed how large corporations exploit a powerful dispute resolution process to bend the countries to his will

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