Monday, April 25, 2016

PULITZER PRIZE - Public Service Prize for Associated Press

"How the AP uncovered secret slavery behind the seafood in your supermarket" PBS NewsHour 4/20/2016


SUMMARY:  An 18-month investigation into the use of slave labor in southeast Asia to bring seafood to American restaurants and supermarkets earned the Associated Press a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.  Since the report was made public, more than 2,000 slaves have been freed.  For more on the daring expose, Hari Sreenivasan talks to Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Now a startling expose about slave labor in the world of seafood.

This week, we’re looking at some of the Pulitzer Prize winners.  And the Associated Press’ 18-month-long investigation won the prize for public service.  It tracked the widespread use of slave labor in Southeast Asia and how it’s part in a supply chain bringing seafood to American restaurants and supermarkets.

Fishermen were beaten and caged, and reporters even hid in the back of trucks for days to pursue the story.  Since then, more than 2,000 slaves have been freed.

Martha Mendoza was part of that reporting team, and joins me now.

Martha, what was the catalyst for the investigation in the first place?  Unfortunately, we have heard of slave-like conditions in different parts of the world before.  What made you want to follow this?

MARTHA MENDOZA, Associated Press:  Well, Slavery at sea wasn’t a secret, but the stories that were being told came from rescued slaves.

And, therefore, there was no traction because the response was, these guys are safe.  There is not really a problem anymore.  So, we set out to do what some people warned us was going to be impossible.  We wanted to find captive slaves, and then we wanted to track their catch with detailed accuracy all the way back to the dinner table to get people who were at the other end of this supply chain engaged.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, how do you find the captive slaves in the first place?

MARTHA MENDOZA:  My colleagues spoke at length and for many months with people who had escaped, as well as human rights activists who worked with people who had escaped.

And they had some miss, going to places where this wasn’t happening or false leads.  But when they heard about this island in Indonesia called Benjina, they had a pretty good idea there might be labor abuse going on there.  And it was a plane trip to a boat ride to a second boat ride to an island that can only be reached at certain times of the year.

And that’s where my colleagues did, indeed, find a slave island.

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