Burma Celebrates First Pulitzer Prize-Winning Female Journalist

By Htun Htun 19 April 2016

RANGOON — An ethnic Kachin journalist from the Associated Press (AP) is the first woman from Burma to be among those awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for her reporting.

Esther Htusan, 29, is one of four AP journalists who worked on an investigation into severe labor abuses within the Southeast Asian fishing industry, a sector which supplies seafood to supermarkets and restaurants abroad. The team’s reporting contributed to the freeing of approximately 2,000 slaves; their work also brought perpetrators of trafficking and enslavement to justice and inspired reforms in the industry.

From March until December of 2015, Esther Htusan, Margie Mason, Robin McDowell and Martha Mendoza broke the story of fishing industry atrocities in nine installments. On Monday, it was announced that the series had earned the AP team the award for excellence in journalism in the category of Public Service.

Aye Aye Win, a former AP reporter from Burma, said she was very proud of the AP journalists for their service to those who would have otherwise remained trapped at sea.

“Their reporting saved fishermen stuck abroad. Their efforts deserve the prize,” she said. This is one case, she continued, where “reporting has given not only information, but also liberation.”

Myint Kyaw, a member of the Myanmar Press Council, said Esther Htusan’s involvement in the investigation had an impact on the whole country.

“Consequently, those who were forced to work in slave-like conditions were saved, and Burmese citizens also got rescued,” he said. The AP team’s success “is also beneficial to Myanmar,” he added.