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Who is Megha Rajagopalan? All about an Indian-origin journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize

Shikha Goyal

Megha Rajagopalan: Why in news?

- She is among the two Indian-origin journalists who won the US' top journalism award, the Pulitzer Prize on Friday (11 June, 2021). 

- She along with other two contributors namely Alison Killing and Christo Buschek won the Pulitzer Prize for the category International Reporting. 

- They won for innovative investigative reports that exposed a huge infrastructure of prisons and mass internment camps that were secretly built by China for detaining hundreds of thousands of Muslims in its restive Xinjiang region.

- For the category, Local Reporting, Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay Times won the Pulitzer Prize.

Megha Rajagopalan: Congratulatory message from her Father

Whenever parents praise for achievement or success, it is a feeling that can't be expressed in words. After the announcement of the award, congratulatory messages poured in from across the globe, she even shared the screenshot of her conversation with her father. 

The chat read: "Congratulation Megha. Mom just forwarded me,” she aptly dubbed it as ‘understated Indian dad reaction.”

There is no exclamation mark or emoji in the message, he only added, "Well Done". The tweet going viral. Even, it was retweeted by Pulitzer Prizes' official Twitter handle.

As per Mark Schoofs, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News "The blazing Xinjiang stories shine desperately needed light on one of the worst human rights abuses of our time."

Megha Rajagopalan said, "she was deeply grateful to the teams of people who worked with her on this including her collaborators, Killing and Buschek, her editor Alex Campbell, BuzzFeed News’ public relations team, and the organisations that funded their work, including the Pulitzer Center".

She also acknowledged the courage of the sources who spoke to them despite the risk and threat of retaliation against them and their families.

Explained: US constitutes Task Force to curb China's Supply Chain dominance

Megha Rajagopalan: How did she manage to expose China's secret detainment camps?

She and her colleagues used satellite imagery and 3D architectural simulations to buttress her interviews with two dozen former prisoners from the detention camps where millions of Muslims from Uighur and other minority ethnicities were interned.

In 2017, she was the first to visit an internment camp in China,  not long after China began to detain thousands of Muslims in Xinjiang. 

As per BuzzFeed News, she was able to visit the camp at a time when China denied that such places existed. Also, the Chinese government tried to silence her in response by revoking her visa and ejecting her from the country.

However, she partnered with two contributors and began working from London.

These three started analyzing thousands of satellite images of the Xinjiang region to find out where China was detaining about one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities.

They also compared censored Chinese images with uncensored mapping software for months.

They began with an enormous dataset of 50,000 locations.

A custom tool was built by Mr. Buschek to sort those images.

They also identified more than 260 structures that appeared to be fortified detention camps.

In fact, some sites were capable of holding more than 10,000 people, and several contained factories where prisoners were forced into labour.

Ms. Rajagopalan also travelled to its neighbour Kazakhstan,  where various Chinese Muslims have sought refuge. 

She located more than two dozen people who had been prisoners in the Xinjiang camps, won their trust, and convinced them to share their nightmares accounts with the world.

Megha Rajagopalan: In Brief

- An award-winning international correspondent for BuzzFeed News, based in London.

- In China, Thailand, Israel, and the Palestinian territories, she has been a staff correspondent for BuzzFeed News.

- Before that, she was a political correspondent for Reuters in China.

- In Asia, from 23 countries, she has reported.

- She also reported in the Middle East on stories ranging from the North Korean nuclear crisis to the peace process in Afghanistan.

- In 7 languages, her work has been translated and also taught in classrooms at Columbia and NYU. It was also anthologized in 2018's What Future: The Year's Best Writing on What's Next for People, Technology, and the Planet.

- She was the first journalist to find and visit an internment camp for Uighur Muslims in China's far west. For this work, she won the Human Rights Press Award in 2018.

- Earlier, she was a Fulbright fellow in Beijing. A research fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington DC.

- Language she speaks Tamil and Mandarin Chinese.

Megha Rajagopalan: Awards

- In 2018, she won the Human Rights Press Award.

- In 2019, she won a Mirror Award. She won for an investigation uncovering the links between Facebook and religious violence in Sri Lanka.

List of the Winning Work

August 26, 2020: China Secretly Built A Vast New Infrastructure To Imprison Muslims

August 26, 2020: What They Saw: Ex-Prisoners Detail The Horrors Of China's Detention Camps

August 26, 2020: Blanked-Out Spots On China's Maps Helped Us Uncover Xinjiang's Camps

December 2, 2020: Inside A Xinjiang Detention Camp

December 27, 2020: We Found The Factories Inside China’s Mass Internment Camps

September 25, 2020: A Uighur Woman Who Was At Risk Of Being Forcibly Sent Back To China And Detained Has Arrived Safely In The US

About Alison Killing

- She is a licensed architect and geospatial analyst.

- She uses maps and data to investigate urgent social issues.

About Christo Buschek

- He is a programmer and digital security trainer.

- He constructs tools tailored for data journalists and human rights defenders.

About Pulitzer Prize

- Yearly, Pulitzer Prize is awarded in twenty-one categories.

- Each winner receives a certificate and a USD 15,000 cash award in twenty of the categories.

- Public Service Category winner is awarded a gold medal.

Source: pulitzer.org, thehindu

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