Congratulations to IRE member Martha Mendoza of The Associated Press for winning the 2016 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting. USC Annenberg recognized Mendoza, along with Esther Htusan, Margie Mason and Robin McDowell, for their project, "Seafood from Slaves," which investigated the multi-billion dollar Thai seafood export industry.
According to the USC news release, the judges commented:
“Slavery at sea has been the subject of substantial journalism before, but the AP team went to new lengths to expose an abusive system from start to finish. They followed the trail to a tiny island in Indonesia, giving voice to those being held against their will and forced to work for nothing. That led to a follow-up story, documenting the freeing of captives spurred by the original report."
The news release also provided a statement from Mendoza:
“The issue had been bubbling up a little in Southeast Asia, as some slaves escaped — but it hadn’t been getting much attention,” Mendoza said. “We set out to do two things that hadn’t been done before. One was to find people currently working as slaves, to put an end to the suggestions that the problem was behind us. The second thing was to specifically track the supply chain to the major retailers, so they could no longer disassociate themselves from the labor abuse.”
Winning the Selden Ring Award will bring more attention to the issue, Mendoza said. “The enslaved people were risking their lives when they spoke to us. Yet they told their stories with courage and integrity. They deserve the recognition.”
Learn more about the reporting behind the project on the IRE Radio Podcast, where we talked to Mendoza, Mason and McDowell about the investigation.